Tuesday, August 16, 2011

EPA's Air Pollution Exemption For Biomasss Power Plants

A lawsuit filed with the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by The Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation, Georgia ForestWatch, Natural Resources Council of Maine and Wild Virginia charges that biomass plants actually add to carbon pollution and should be stripped of its three-year free pass from greenhouse gas regulations.

The lawsuit targets an Environmental Protection Agency decision, announced earlier this year, that exempts large-scale biomass-burning facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act for three years.

The Center not only supports biomass projects, we are actually actively pursuing the construction of a wood-to-electricity plant in Mississippi.

Citizen protests across the country are challenging new plants and the EPA exemption. From Florida to Georgia to Massachusetts to Washington state, critics point to environmental harm from biomass plants. Earlier this year, for instance, regulators fined two San Joaquin Valley, California plants $835,000 for sweeping alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and local regulations.

Aided by hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars and support from Congress and the EPA, the electricity generating stations are spreading nationwide – burning trees, construction debris, poultry litter and agricultural mass as one piece of a larger push to develop sources of alternative energy. The industry counts some 100 plants in 20 states, with critics saying as many as 100 more are on the drawing board.

Biomass plants, typically located in rural areas, already provide some 2 percent of the nation’s energy, the Department of Energy estimates. The proportion could reach 15 percent by 2020 as the government awards federal subsidies to help bankroll the growth.

The EPA deems biomass a renewable energy source that is carbon-neutral. Yet the lawsuit contends the EPA’s deferral will harm the environment. The conservation groups are asking the court to overturn the carbon dioxide exemption for wood-fired power plants and other biomass incinerators. (iWatch, 8/15/2011)

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