A damaging EPA stance on biomass

The agency wants to regulate it like fossil fuels, and that harms Minnesota.

By KURT DAUDT and CAROLYN MCELFATRICK
Commentary published by Star Tribune Newspaper

In a few weeks, just as the two of us are being sworn in as freshmen (state) legislators with huge issues on our plates here at home, new federal regulations are in store for one of Minnesota’s most promising industries.

The effects of these regulations from Washington will not be good for either our plans for renewable and traditional energy options or for our economy and jobs.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will implement its “Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” which will regulate emissions from the combustion of renewable biomass the same as emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

The EPA will require biomass producers to comply with onerous and expensive Washington regulations that will have a chilling effect on our forest industry.

Our Take:
We would welcome a review of EPA’s stance on a spectrum of issues–frankly they are an agency that cannot currently see the forest for the trees–their hyper-regulatory approach is counter-productive to the nation’s environmental and energy goals. And this is not simply harmless government make-work. The EPA’s current expansion of power is a real threat to jobs and the economy in addition to marching us backwards in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Daudt and McElfatrick’s commentary goes on to quote Rep. Collin Peterson, in his communication to President Obama that “[The EPA is] screwing things up. … I’ve told the president directly that he needs to rein them in, but so far it hasn’t happened.” 

District Energy in Saint Paul has used biomass waste-to-energy (including ag waste) for decades, to produce steam heat for downtown Saint Paul businesses and government buildings. Not only is this carbon neutral because these plants used as feedstock bound carbon out of the atmosphere during their lifecycle, but the technology continues to develop and to reduce emissions. What all biomass industries need is room to grow and to continue on their path of greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact. The other alternative is growing our use of fossil fuels. As EPA has itself said fossil powered electric generation and petroleum refining are the two largest sources of carbon emissions in the country (oil refining produces 200 billion tons of carbon annually and electric generation many multiples of that). So why can’t EPA policy get out of its own way and help push bioenergy and help show petroleum to the door? 

More legislators need to join Peterson in carrying the message to the President that we need a return of common sense at EPA. Viewing combustion of biomass as carbon neutral is just plain common sense, and EPA is showing that it cannot avail itself of what is plain to many others. Let’s have a groundswell around the push to bring EPA back to earth and within bounds.

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