As anticipated in an earlier blog post and discussed during a recent Reed Smith teleseminar, on July 1 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a final rule to defer biomass from greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation for three years so that USEPA can properly study biomass emissions and make a considered determination regarding regulation of GHG emission from biomass. Over this time period, municipal solid waste landfills releasing GHGs from decomposing biomass and industrial plants that burn woody biomass will not need permits before starting construction or expansion and will not need Title V operating permits. However, facilities that co-fire biogenic and fossil fuels would still be required to count the fraction of CO2 associated with fossil fuel combustion towards their Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) applicability determination. Further, the deferral would not apply to other GHGs (e.g., methane) or non-greenhouse gas pollutants that are otherwise subject to PSD and Title V permitting at landfills or industrial facilities.

In the final rule, USEPA will defer for three years the consideration of biogenic CO2 emissions under the Tailoring Rule. To facilitate the deferral, USEPA revised the definition of the term “subject to regulation” to exclude biogenic CO2 emissions from stationary sources. The deferral would apply only to CO2 emissions from the combustion and decomposition of biologically-based material. And such emissions will not count towards the PSD applicability determination for greenhouse gases. Some emissions that would be deferred by the rule include:

  • CO2 generated from the biological decomposition of waste in landfills, wastewater treatment or manure management processes;
  • CO2 from the combustion of biogas collected from biological decomposition of waste in landfills, wastewater treatment or manure management processes;
  • CO2 from fermentation during ethanol production or other industrial fermentation processes;
  • CO2 from combustion of the biological fraction of municipal solid waste or biosolids;
  • CO2 from combustion of the biological fraction of tire-derived fuel; and
  • CO2 derived from combustion of biological material, including all types of wood and wood waste, forest residue, and agricultural material.

For municipal solid waste landfill owners, it's worth restating the obvious: because CO2 generated from the biological decomposition of waste in landfills and CO2 from the combustion of biogas collected from biological decomposition of waste in landfills is deferred for three years, this deferral could be significant to your operation.