Three-year EPA delay is a big statement


While biomass projects have recently made the news in Mason County and Thurston County in Washington state, the burgeoning biomass industry is also continuing to resonate on a national scale.

The Boston Globe recently ran dueling op-eds, in favor and in opposition to biomass, and both pieces use as a jumping off point the EPA’s recent decision to put off any potential biomass restrictions for three years.  Writing in opposition to biomass are Mary Booth and Richard Wiles, advocates from environmental groups, and in support is Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association.

Booth and Wiles rest their entire op-ed on the straw man argument that biomass plants sometime in the future will cut down entire trees, rather than wood waste. This was the same false pretense behind a fundamentally flawed Massachusetts study last year whose own authors said was misreported by the press, and in turn, environmental groups.

At least Booth and Wiles admit the EPA’s decision to put off potential greenhouse-gas restrictions on biomass for three years was a negative development for the parties who are trying to kill the biomass industry. Nathanael Greene at the National Resources Defense Council, in his description of the Boston Globe op-eds, said the three-year delay was “only a timeout.” We agree that the EPA could still end up hurting the biomass industry with onerous regulations, but three years is quite a timeout.

Cleaves, in his op-ed, points out that the EPA has concluded that “biomass plays an important role in ‘addressing climate change and enhancing forest management’’ and that states now have a legal and scientific basis for concluding that biomass for energy is the ‘best available control technology’’ to curb greenhouse gases.”

He goes on to conclude:

The EPA’s three-year deferral is a clear signal of support for owners, operators, and developers of biomass projects looking for some modicum of regulatory certainty in the near-term. And it has important implications for natural resource-based economies throughout rural America. That stack of waste wood left over from a logging operation in Massachusetts, or orchard prunings left behind in California, or rice hulls from a mill in Louisiana — it’s all renewable and will be a wasted opportunity if we don’t grow and promote this sector…

…The EPA is finally beginning to embrace biomass, and we promise it will benefit our country. The decision is a win for the environment and a win for the nation’s energy future.