On January 12, 2011, the EPA announced that it would defer, for three years, permitting requirements for carbon dioxide (C02) emissions from biomass-fired sources. Facilities covered by this decision include those that produce energy by burning forest or agricultural products, as well as wastewater treatment and livestock management facilities, landfills and ethanol production plants.

The announcement follows the effectiveness on January 2, 2011 of air permitting obligations for larger greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters such as power plants and refineries that are planning to construct new facilities or make significant modifications to their existing plants. With respect to such facilities, air permits must be obtained and energy efficiency measures or cost effective technologies are required to be implemented.

During the three year deferment period, the EPA will seek further independent scientific analysis on emissions from biomass sources. The EPA will also undertake further consideration of the more than 7,000 comments it received from its July 2010 Call for Information, including observations that burning certain types of biomass may emit the same amount of C02 that would be emitted if not burned as fuel, while the combustion of other types of biomass may result in a net increase in C02 emissions. Before the end of the three year period, the EPA will issue a rulemaking that determines how these emissions should be treated under GHG permitting requirements.