Westerman and Kuster Urge EPA to Provide Clarity for Biomass Plants

June 17, 2015
Press Release
Reducing uncertainty regarding regulations will help the biomass industry grow and support economic development

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON  This morning, Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting increased regulatory clarity for biomass producers across the country. Nineteen Members of Congress from both parties joined Westerman and Kuster in signing the letter.

By using organic material that would otherwise be landfilled or left to decay to generate electricity, biomass is an environmentally sound and cost-effective renewable energy source. Additionally, biomass producers are creating jobs for rural communities across the country, and these efforts should be supported. It is unclear how the EPA intends to treat biomass power moving forward, and Kuster and Westerman urged the EPA to quickly clarify to what extent biomass facilities will be subject to newly proposed carbon emission rules, and whether a partial or full-exemption would be considered. This regulatory information will provide biomass producers with the certainty they need to plan for future production. 

“Biomass fuel is important to a growing renewable energy industry in the United States and abroad. We ask that the Environmental Protection Agency create a fair, clear set of regulations sooner rather than later so this industry can have certainty in their processes as they grow. A new industry that sequesters carbon, is environmentally sound, and is creating jobs deserves to be treated fairly and to know the rules upfront. That is what we are requesting from the EPA today,” said Congressman Bruce Westerman.

“Biomass companies are doing an incredible job of turning unused material into an energy source, and they are creating jobs for workers across the country and in New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Biomass producers need to know upfront how the EPA’s proposed carbon emission rules will affect them, so these regulations do not come as a surprise and hinder their ability to expand, grow, and continue to hire American workers. I urge EPA to swiftly make it known how these rules will be applied to the biomass industry, and to consider partial- or full-exemption from these rules for sustainable biomass producers.” 

The full text of the letter can be found below: 

June 17, 2015

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460 

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We write today to express our support for the role that biomass power plays in our Nation’s energy supply, and to request that EPA take action to remove regulatory ambiguities in the treatment of utility-scale biomass power as a renewable resource.  Biomass is a renewable form of energy that provides jobs for our rural communities, promotes healthy forests, and offers an environmental solution for organic material that would otherwise be landfilled, left to decay in the forest or on farm fields, or simply burned.  Converting these low-value materials to electricity is a win for the environment and our economy.

The primary source of biomass feedstock for electricity comes from “low-value” wood and agricultural residues.  While biomass varies by region, all biomass fuels for electricity share a common trait, namely, a material that has no higher value use in the marketplace.  Biomass feedstocks for electricity are not generally “grown” or “harvested” for energy, but are a by-product of non-energy uses.  Whether from forests (tops, limbs, thinnings), farms (rice hulls, bagasse, orchard prunings) or the urban environment (pallets, railroad ties and other forms of “waste wood”), biomass power’s use of these materials should be encouraged for producing electricity.

While EPA has been generally supportive of biomass power in recent documents, how the agency intends to treat biomass power continues to be ambiguous at best. We request that EPA move quickly to clarify the extent to which these facilities will be covered by proposed carbon emission rules.  Providing this regulatory certainty, including through full or partial exemption from these rules, could promote a diverse energy portfolio and contribute to healthy forests, farms, and rural communities. 

Thank you for your timely consideration of our request.  We look forward to your response and to continuing to work with you in service of the American people.

Sincerely,

Bruce Westerman                                                        Ann McLane Kuster
Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress

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