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EPA Finalizes Affordable Clean Energy Rule, Repealing Clean Power Plan

On June 19, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule that repeals and replaces the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy (“ACE”) rule.  The ACE rule represents a significantly scaled down version of the Clean Power Plan, addressing only greenhouse gas emissions from “inside the fence line” at existing coal-fired power plants.  It also provides states with flexibility to take three years to develop technology-based plans to reduce emissions at affected plants by improving efficiency.  The rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Notably, the prepublication draft provided on EPA’s website does not include biomass as Best System of Emissions Reduction (“BSER”) or as a compliance option for states to use in meeting the emissions reduction requirements.  This aligns with CPA’s comments provided to EPA during the comment period and in multiple meetings with key EPA staff regarding concerns of driving wood fiber use toward energy production by regulatory mandate.

EPA’s rationale for its treatment of biomass was the following:

“…BSER determination must include systems of emission reduction that are achievable at the source. While the firing of biomass occurs at a designated facility, biomass firing in and of itself does not reduce emissions of CO2 emitted from that source. Specifically, when measuring stack emissions, combustion of biomass emits more mass of emissions per Btu than that from combustion of fossil fuels, thereby increasing CO2 emissions at the source.”  See pg. 99 of Prepublication draft.

In addition, EPA also affirmed in the rule’s preamble that biomass was not considered BSER due to cost and availability considerations.  EPA did, however, indicate in a footnote that Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting authorities may consider potential offsite environmental attributes when considering applications that propose to treat biomass as Best Available Control Technology (BACT).

Once the final ACE rule is made available, CPA will confirm that it aligns with the prepublication draft.  Legal action taken on the ACE rule is likely, which could delay implementation for a significant period of time.  See Prepublication Final ACE Rule and EPA ACE Webpage.  More Info: Jackson Morrill

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