Forestry Groups Take Aim at New EPA Regulations

By Beacon Staff

A recent study commissioned by the National Alliance of Forestry Owners states that a new Environmental Protection Agency rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions will severely limit woody biomass renewable energy projects if implemented as scheduled in January.

In May, the EPA issued a final rule establishing the “Tailoring Rule” to regulate greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by defining when permits are required for new and existing industrial facilities. The rule is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2, 2011.

The recent study, which was commissioned by NAFO out of Washington D.C. and conducted by Forisk Consulting out of Georgia, concludes that the Tailoring Rule’s treatment of woody biomass must be amended or it will continue to stall renewable energy projects across the country.

This conclusion echoes an earlier letter sent to Congress by more than 100 scientists arguing that “equating biogenic carbon emissions with fossil fuel emissions… is not consistent with good science and, if not corrected, could stop the development of new emission reducing biomass energy facilities.”

NAFO states that regulatory uncertainty has stalled investment on “23 near-term projects” and jeopardizes renewable energy goals nationwide.

“The Tailoring Rule is a powerful deterrent to forest biomass energy investments and job opportunities,” David P. Tenny, NAFO’s president and CEO, said of the study’s findings.

“We’re already seeing the economic impact of the Tailoring Rule, as renewable energy projects are delayed or stopped altogether due to regulatory uncertainty,” Tenny added. “Left unchanged, the Tailoring Rule threatens the long-term viability of the biomass energy sector which, in turn, undermines the renewable energy goals of the Administration and Congress.”

Brooks Mendell, lead author of the study, said pre-Tailoring Rule projections suggested that 19 states would be unable to meet a minimum renewable energy standard of 15 percent by 2021.

“Taking into account impacts on investment in wood bioenergy projects, particularly in wood-rich states and regions, implementation of the Tailoring Rule could leave up to 30 states unable to meet renewable energy goals,” Mendell said in a release.

The study states that a bipartisan group of lawmakers has teamed up with state and local officials across the nation to urge the EPA to amend the Tailoring Rule’s treatment of woody biomass before the rule takes effect in January.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners is an organization of “private forest owners committed to advancing federal policies that promote the economic and environmental values of privately-owned forests at the national level.” Membership encompasses more than 79 million acres in 47 states.

Chuck Roady, general manager for Stoltze Land and Lumber Co., said last week that he hadn’t yet read the NAFO study but is well aware of the Tailoring Rule. Roady has written letters and spoken with lawmakers at both the federal and state levels.

Roady has long expressed a desire to move more into biomass renewable energy. While factors, such as the price of power, have presented obstacles, Roady said even if conditions improve for a project he won’t be able to do it if the EPA’s “over the top” regulations are in place.

“It’s just a tough deal,” Roady said.

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