The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still considering whether to pull its exemption for biomass plants when it comes to obtaining greenhouse-gas emissions permits. These proposed changes to what’s called the “Tailoring Rule” are critical to the future of the timber industry and many rural communities across the country.
If the EPA’s proposed changes go into effect, biomass plants would no longer be considered carbon-neutral by the federal government, and it would make it more difficult for the plants to pencil out financially.
Fortunately, the EPA hasn’t made its final decision just yet. It’s taking public comment on the changes until Sept. 13. But even more important, according to the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), anyone who is concerned about the proposed rule change should contact their members of Congress.
NAFO has put together a Biomass Energy Advocacy Toolkit to help spread the word to Congress about the EPA threat.
According to NAFO, here are the most important things you can do:
- Call your local office and request time for a 15-30 minute meeting with the Senator, Representative, or key staff while they are in the state.
- If they are not available for a meeting, ask if there is a town meeting scheduled in the area that you can attend.
- If that is not an option, leave a message and ask for a letter in response or hand deliver a letter to the office with supporting materials (see below). Working with the local office, as opposed to the D.C. office, underscores it is an opinion coming from a voter and the staff you talk to in the state are more likely longer-term staffers who will raise the issue as important to the Member.
In the meantime, the Blue Mountain Eagle in Grant County, Ore., just wrote an editorial about the proposed EPA changes.
In rural communities, pellet mills like the ones going into service in parts of Eastern Oregon are expected to provide jobs in a timber industry rocked by the recession. Meanwhile, community hospitals, schools and other institutions are switching to biomass heating as a low-cost, local and clean alternative to fossil fuels.
On the forests, we see foresters looking to this new industry as a way to remove a decades-long build-up of fuels from the forest floor, leaving tree stands more resilient against insects and fire. If the alternative is open burning of slash piles – or catastrophic wildfire – biomass harvest seems like a good option. Do we really need to remind the EPA that slash burning and wildfires produce huge amounts of particulate matter?
Contact your legislator and let’s make sure that our timber communities are protected!