Marten Law: Washington State Decision Excludes Bioenergy-Based GHG Emissions From Clean Air Act Permit Requirements

Svend Brandt-Erichsen   By Svend Brandt-Erichsen, Partner, Marten Law PLLC

"An administrative hearings board in Washington State has rejected calls for further assessment of climate impacts from a cogeneration project that will burn woody biomass to generate electricity and steam," writes Svend Brandt-Erichsen. "The hearing board's decision provides a preview of arguments that will likely be made as EPA considers whether to permanently exclude bioenergy-based carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Clean Air Act (CAA) permitting."

"The implications of Washington's approach to biomass fuels can be seen in the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board's (PCHB) recent decision upholding the air permit for a biomass-fueled cogeneration project at a pulp mill in Port Townsend, Washington," explains the author. "The air permit for the project was approved by Washington's Department of Ecology on October 22, 2010, before EPA's Tailoring Rule took effect.  As a result, greenhouse gas emissions were not an issue for the project's air permit, but the appellants did challenge the way in which those emissions were handled in the environmental review of the project done under SEPA."

"The appellants, local environmental groups, were backed by a coalition of national groups opposed to bioenergy," reports Brandt-Erichsen. "They argued-unsuccessfully-that CO2 emissions generated by the project's planned increased use of biomass fuel should have been further analyzed in the CAA permit and environmental review processes."

Svend Brandt-Erichsen, a partner at Marten Law PLLC, practices in Alaska and Washington, and has been an environmental lawyer for nearly 20 years. He currently is advising clients on carbon management and other environmental issues associated with energy project development, including coal gasification plants. Svend has spent his career assisting petroleum, coal-based and alternative energy firms with the environmental issues associated with power development and distribution and with oil and gas production, transportation, and refining. He has represented clients in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California.

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See also Marten Law: Under Attack, EPA Defers Greenhouse Gas Permitting for Biomass Projects.

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