WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2013 – Forest owners are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to proceed quickly with amendments to its greenhouse gas regulations (Tailoring Rule) following a ruling today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit) in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The court decided that EPA did not adequately justify its decision to temporarily defer biogenic emissions from its greenhouse gas regulations, but left the door open to EPA finalizing permanent amendments to its rules regarding the treatment of such emissions. Importantly, the court’s decision does not affect EPA’s ongoing process to develop a permanent decision regarding whether to regulate biomass emissions based on the carbon benefits that forest bioenergy offers compared to fossil fuels.
“EPA did the right thing by deferring the regulations while it reconsiders whether forest bioenergy should be regulated the same as fossil fuel energy,” said Dave Tenny, President and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO). “Forest Owners also did the right thing by defending EPA’s action in court. Now the priority is for EPA to complete its amendments to the Tailoring Rule to fully recognize the carbon benefits of forest bioenergy and to do it promptly. The urgency of the situation has now increased significantly.”
In June 2010, EPA adopted the Tailoring Rule to set the threshold that triggers the requirement for stationary sources to obtain Clean Air Act PSD permits for their carbon emissions. In an unexpected departure from the proposed rule and prior agency precedent, EPA for the first time in the final rule regulated carbon emissions from forest bioenergy production the same as fossil fuel emissions. Biomass fundamentally differs from fossil fuels as an energy source because biomass recycles atmospheric carbon through tree and plant growth while fossil fuel carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere over time. This means that the combustion of biomass does not lead to net GHG emissions into the atmosphere. EPA had consistently recognized this view prior to the final Tailoring Rule, which suddenly and unexpectedly reversed course from this longstanding policy.
In July 2011, EPA published the Deferral Rule after granting NAFO’s petition to reconsider the treatment of bioenergy carbon emissions under the Tailoring Rule. The Center for Biological Diversity and others immediately challenged the deferral. NAFO and others* intervened in the case in support of EPA.
U.S. forests offset about 14% of total annual U.S. carbon emissions, a benefit to the public that is widely viewed as a key contribution to mitigating climate change. However, the Tailoring Rule amendments will heavily influence the extent to which private forest owners, who own and manage nearly 60% of the forests in our country, continue providing this benefit.
“EPA must now work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on permanent amendments to the Tailoring Rule as part of the climate change solution,” Tenny said. “The agencies can then engage forest owners on a broader policy framework promoting the considerable mitigation benefits private forests provide.”
*Other intervenors include: American Forest & Paper Association, American Wood Council , Biomass Power Association, Corn Refiners Association, The Florida Sugar Industry, National Oilseed Processors Association, Rubber Manufacturers Association, Treated Wood Council, Utility Air Regulatory Group and Renewable Fuels Association.
# # #