Close of Scientific Advisory Board Meeting Brings No Further Ruling on Biomass


On April 1, the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board concluded its quality review meeting to assess the draft report of the Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources. At the close of the meeting, despite years of discussion and debate on the issue, it seemed that the group of forestry experts remained at an impasse as to how to advance a comprehensive biogenic carbon accounting framework to the EPA. If the meeting had finalized the Framework, the draft report would have been sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for final approval. The Framework has implications for biomass’ use as a compliance strategy under the Clean Power Plan, as well as other environmental regulations.

Establishing an Emissions ‘Factor’ for Biomass

In 2011, EPA tasked the independent Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) with finalizing key concepts for emissions associated with the use of biomass feedstocks to produce electricity (including wastes from forestry, agriculture, organics, manure, landfills, and waste water treatment plants). The SAB's concept for the Framework is to establish a factor for carbon emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of biomass feedstocks, including the growth, harvest, and processing of the biomass. 

In the 2010 Tailoring Rule, EPA decided to treat biogenic and fossil CO2 source emissions at the power plant smoke stack the same. Therefore, for biomass use to comply with environmental regulations, a complex accounting framework must be established to verify that the use of a particular biomass feedstock will reduce net CO2 emissions. When finalized, the Framework will guide the use of biomass in all environmental regulations.