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Senators seek biomass moratorium in GHG rule

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 7:56 pm
by Wilberforce
May 20, 2015
Senators seek biomass moratorium in GHG rule

Massachusetts’s two Democratic senators have written to the EPA to request that any final Clean Power Plan issued by the Agency include a temporary moratorium on the use of biomass combustion as a means of complying with the requirements of the plan, which is expected to be made final this summer.

The proposed plan allows states to use renewable energy as one building block to meet GHG emissions reduction targets for existing power plants. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren note that while the plan is not yet final, aspects of the proposal indicate that the EPA may decide to treat all bioenergy generation as having no GHG emissions.

They add that the equation the Agency used to calculate state-level emissions rate goals includes all of the energy but none of the emissions associated with renewable generation, including bioenergy, which, they write, is not a zero-carbon technology.

“As EPA knows, wood-burning power plants emit around 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour,” say Markey and Warren. “A growing body of scientific evidence, including a study commissioned by the State of Massachusetts, has found that it takes decades of forest regeneration to offset these emissions. In response to these findings, Massachusetts eliminated renewable energy subsidies for utility-scale wood-burning power plants, finding they compromised the state’s ability to achieve its emission reduction targets. Massachusetts’ renewable energy portfolio is now focused on the technologies that produce the most immediate reductions in power sector emissions.”
Accounting method

The senators add that the EPA has not determined that any form of biomass combustion is carbon neutral within the compliance time frame set by the proposal. Questions about the carbon emissions of burning biomass at power plants can be best answered once the EPA has a method in place to account for facility-level emissions and a means of ensuring that emissions offsetting actually occurs in an appropriate time frame, write Markey and Warren.

The senators believe the moratorium on the use of bioenergy as a compliance measure under the plan should extend to 2020, when states will have the opportunity to apply for modifications of their state implementation plans. According to Markey and Warren, this approach has three advantages:

It gives the EPA time to finalize a biogenic carbon accounting framework, develop a tool for assessing net carbon emissions at the facility level, and determine how best to count bioenergy emissions under the plan.
It avoids incentivizing a carbon-intensive energy source that works against the plan’s objectives and that emerging evidence suggests is contributing to unsustainable deforestation.
It focuses near-term state efforts on wind, solar, and other zero-carbon renewable energy technologies whose contribution to the plan’s objectives are well understood.

“It is critical that EPA get the accounting right before states commit to measures that could aggravate rather than alleviate climate concerns,” wrote Markey and Warren.

source ... -GHG-rule/