The EPA has agreed to defer for three years the requirement that biomass facilities obtain greenhouse gas permits.  On July 1, in its final rule implementing the deferral, the agency explained, "the issue of accounting for the net atmospheric impact of biogenic CO2 emissions is complex enough that further consideration of this important issue is warranted."

The EPA's action responded to a petition filed by the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO).  The result of this decision, as summarized in the final rule, "is that during this three year period biogenic CO2 emissions are not required to be counted for applicability purposes under the PSD and Title V permitting programs."  The EPA will use the three-year deferral period to "conduct a detailed examination of the science associated with biogenic CO2 emissions from stationary sources, including engaging with federal partners, technical experts, and an independent scientific panel to consider technical issues."  In April 2011, the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board published a notice soliciting experts to examine this issue.

The EPA's fact sheet defines biogenic CO2 emissions as "emissions of CO2 from a stationary source directly resulting from the combustion or decomposition of biologically-based materials other than fossil fuels and mineral sources of carbon."  Industries affected by this rule include electric utilities that use biomass fuel, wood products and paper manufacturing, and landfills and wastewater treatment plants.