August 7, 2015

ASABE Reports Continued Progress in Development of Solid Biofuels Standards

In June, representatives from North America attended meetings in York, England, to continue work toward the development of solid biofuels standards. The standards being developed under ISO Technical Committee 238 are an international effort to develop standards for solid biofuels. There are currently 24 countries participating in this effort with an additional 14 countries observing the progress of the work. It is anticipated that, as these standards are published, they will replace the CEN/EN standards that are commonly referenced in wood pellet specifications for export power contracts. These standards will also be available for adoption within the U.S. markets as end users see fit. They are ultimately voluntary standards within the U.S., but could be used in place of older ASTM standards. 

You can learn more about the status of this initiative by reading the original press release.

EPA Releases Final Draft of Clean Power Plan

On Monday, August 3, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final Clean Power Plan. The first draft was released in June 2014 and the agency released the final version this week after collecting and evaluating comments from all stakeholders engaged in the plan: industry, trade groups, environmental NGOs, and other interested or affected organizations.

The Clean Power Plan will require each state to develop its own custom carbon emissions reduction plan to meet a carbon emissions target that the agency has set for the state given its current energy makeup. At more than 1,500 pages (plus an 800-page implementation guideline document), the rule is complicated and most stakeholders are taking time to carefully evaluate its implications.

For the biomass industry, there are some positive aspects of the plan as well as several areas of ambiguity. In the preamble to the regulatory specifics, the EPA unequivocally embraced the role biomass can play, stating, “The EPA recognizes that the use of some biomass-derived fuels can play an important role in controlling increases of CO2 levels in the atmosphere.” However, as with many regulations, it is not that simple. For example, the level of difficulty for states to incorporate biomass power into their carbon reduction plans remains uncertain. States will need to verify the sustainability of the feedstocks used by plants under their plans. The EPA will provide further guidance on feedstocks that may be included as its Scientific Advisory Board panel continues its analysis of biogenic carbon emissions from all sources.

Additionally, there is a section of the plan that has not been finalized and is open for public comment. Known as the Federal Plan, this portion of the package is soliciting comments on a number of issues around forest-based biomass. PFI is currently discussing comments to be filed, which will focus on the forest products and biomass value chain needing certainty on the carbon profile of biomass combustion, as well as the potential added costs associated with unnecessary recordkeeping, monitoring, tracking and verification schemes.  

We will follow up with you on the specifics of the Federal Plan as well as how you may submit comments. 

Here are a few reactions to the final plan by related trade organizations:



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Industry News

Op-ed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: The cost of fighting wildfires is sapping Forest Service budget
Seattle Times
WILDFIRES are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands. 

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Debunking so-called wood pellet facts
Biomass Magazine 
Two highly inaccurate statements are often made about using wood pellets as a substitute for coal in power generation: CO2 released from wood pellet combustion is greater than CO2 released from coal combustion, and using wood pellets for heat or power creates a carbon debt that takes decades to repay.

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EPA releases Clean Power Plan, uncertainty for biomass remains
Biomass Magazine
The U.S. EPA has released the final Clean Power Plan rules, which contain some key changes from the original rule, as well as vague language related to using certain kinds of biomass fuel as a carbon reduction method.

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Pellet Fuels Institute |  [email protected]   | 703.522.6778