EPA Heeds Merkley’s Call to Clear the Path for Oregon Biomass Energy Industry

Portland, OR –
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded today to a request from Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley to clear the way for the production of biomass energy in Oregon and other states by announcing that EPA will exempt carbon emissions from biomass facilities from Clean Air Act regulation for at least three years.  Because biomass is produced from renewable resources in the United States, it has a significant role to play in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and combating climate change. 

In a letter to Senator Merkley, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stated that the agency will defer application of emissions rules to biomass energy facilities while the agency engages in a scientific review to determine the best means of accounting for the environmental benefits of biomass fuel.  Senator Merkley requested this specific action in a letter to Administrator Jackson and in ongoing dialogue with the administrator and other senior White House officials over the past year.

“Oregon is poised to grow into a world leader in biomass energy production,” Merkley said.  “Today’s decision marks a victory for rural Oregon, timber communities, and the future of the industry in our state.  Increased production and use of home-grown, American biomass energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here in Oregon.”

In the letter, the EPA agreed to take three steps to allow for the production of biomass fuels in Oregon:

–          By July 1, 2011, EPA plans to finalize a rule exempting carbon emissions from biomass energy production from the new Clean Air Act regulation for three years.

–          The EPA will begin a two-year consultation with scientists and federal agencies to determine the best way to address the unique nature of biomass which pulls carbon out of the atmosphere while it grows.

–          Based on this consultation, the EPA will propose a permanent policy on biomass emissions.  The agency plans to finalize this policy by the time the three-year exemption from Clean Air Act regulation expires.

In the meantime, in case any biomass facility triggers Clean Air Act greenhouse-gas regulations before July 1 of this year, the EPA will issue guidance allowing for the use of biomass fuel to constitute compliance with the Clean Air Act.

The EPA letter to Senator Merkley can be found at: