Last month, right before Valentine’s Day, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may have delivered a V-Day gift to the biomass industry in the form of comments made to forestry industry professionals and one key elected official.
In a meeting with industry members and Gov. Chris Sununu (R-New Hampshire), Pruitt referenced previous administrations and how they “created confusion” regarding biomass and carbon neutrality. To remedy this, Pruitt is proposing that the EPA clarify regulations affecting not only biomass but the forest products industry that is seeing biomass becoming an increasingly important part of its business.
The EPA hasn’t definitively stated that biomass is carbon-neutral and made recommendations acknowledging such a reality, not even in the Obama administration. The Scientific Advisory Board has been addressing that issue since 2011 and has yet to reach a consensus on the carbon neutrality of biomass.
Pruitt’s EPA hopes that such confusion can be cleared up sooner rather than later, and is taking steps toward solidifying regulatory expectations for biomass – a move that will be well-received by New Hampshire and other states with a growing biomass industry.
In a separate letter addressed to Gov. Sununu, Pruitt stated that the EPA “will expand the economic potential of our nation’s forests,” while seeking to “provide clarity and incorporate consistent treatment of biomass throughout the range of EPA’s regulatory programs.”
Gov. Sununu has been back and forth on biomass in New Hampshire. Last summer, he didn’t oppose a bill favoring the beleaguered NH biomass industry with additional support, allowing it to pass without his signature. But as a member of the state’s Executive Council, he opposed two major solar and wind projects; as governor, he supports pulling New Hampshire out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for carbon in New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
If the EPA decides that biomass is, indeed, carbon neutral and agrees to dedicate more resources to develop the nation’s still-growing domestic biomass industry, states like New Hampshire would benefit and could stabilize energy production and reduce electricity rates – which would earn the favor of Gov. Sununu and the state legislature.
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