As the biomass power industry struggles to recover from one of the worst economic downturns in our history, we now face a series of proposed EPA rules that threaten the continued viability of our plants and jeopardize thousands of good paying jobs in rural America.
These rules, collectively referred to as "Boiler MACT," involve a series of regulations promulgated under the Clean Air Act and related solid waste laws. Mired in litigation for years, EPA promulgated draft rules in 2010 which, by the Agency's own admission, were based on fundamental misunderstandings about boiler technology and the benefits of various biomass fuels. Instead of going "back to the drawing board," EPA was forced by the Court to finalize the rules under an unreasonably short timeline.
Despite EPA's agreement on May 15 to stay the so-called "Boiler and CISWI MACT," the EPA stay remains problematic for two reasons:
- First, the stay does not affect the solid waste rule, which wrongly classifies millions of tons of valuable biomass as "waste" and subjects our facilities to overly cumbersome and needless regulations.
- Second, the EPA stay is at risk of legal challenges from environmental organizations. If successful, these challenges could force the private sector to comply, even if EPA believes —as the Agency does—that the regulations are ill-conceived.
If EPA's rules are allowed to proceed unchanged, they will result in what many experts estimate will be billions of dollars in needless changes to industrial facilities. Many existing biomass plants will simply shut down, adding to the growing number of facilities unable to compete with fossil fuel power. New facilities will be placed on hold, chilling renewable energy investment in areas of the Nation in dire need of such investment. And at a time when the Nation is promoting the use of domestically sourced renewable energy like biomass, many biomass fuels would be landfilled.
How Congress Can Help
Congress needs to intervene now in order to prevent costly regulations that have no public health or environmental benefit. We urge Congress to enact legislation that delays implementation of the Rules for at least two years, which is the time believed necessary for EPA to properly consider all of the information necessary to adopt common sense rules. We also urge Congress to require any Rule to be based on available technology and to propose standards that are actually achievable at a reasonable cost, and to facilitate—not hinder—the use of a wide variety of biomass fuels.