The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Cat McCue, Southern Environmental Law Center, 434-977-4090,  

Wayne Jenkins, Georgia ForestWatch, 706-635-8733
Stuart C. Ross, Clean Air Task Force, 914-649-5037,

Four Environmental Groups Seek To Defend Greenhouse Gas Rule in Court


Four environmental groups, representing citizens
concerned about climate change and forest resources in New England and
the Southeast, filed a joint motion in federal court late yesterda to
help defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to
count emissions from burning biomass when it begins regulating global
warming pollution from large power plants and other large industrial
facilities. The agency's decision also includes a commitment to
continue a scientific evaluation of the true carbon impact of the many
forms of biomass energy.

Burning woody materials, grasses and other biomass can be a
significant component of the effort to achieve climate benefits by
shifting America away from fossil fuels-but only if the biomass is
sourced and accounted for properly-so that the carbon emitted when
biomass is burned equals or is less than the carbon taken up by new
plant growth. Recent studies show that combusting some kinds of
biomass as fuel can actually increase the amount of climate change
pollutants. For example, burning whole trees in mature forests
is much less likely to be carbon-neutral than combusting undergrowth
and trimmings from plantation stands.

Last month, EPA issued what is commonly called the "tailoring" rule,
which establishes the agency's framework for evaluating and limiting
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Clean Air Act permits for
large stationary sources. The agency declined to give all biomass
combustion greenhouse gas emissions a blanket exemption from complying
with the Act, as was sought by the forest products industry and
others. The environmental groups' filing supports EPA's decision
to reject the idea that all biomass is inherently
"carbon-neutral." This careful approach avoids making the
climate problem worse in the short term and allows for additional

The rule is being challenged by industry interests and several members
of Congress in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Southeastern Legal
Foundation, et al. v. US EPA). Late yesterday, Southern
Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Clean Air Task Force (CATF)
attorneys filed a motion to intervene in defense of this aspect of
EPA's rule on behalf of Georgia ForestWatch and Wild Virginia,
represented by SELC, and the Conservation Law Foundation and the
Natural Resources Council of Maine, represented by CATF.

Click here for the groups' motion to intervene.

"The South is already considered the 'fiber basket' of the country,
with much of our land producing paper and other forest products. While
generating some of our energy from biomass will help the South's rural
economies and help shift to cleaner energy, we should look before we
leap. In particular, we must ensure a regulatory system that
sustains the clean water, the wildlife habitat, the carbon-capturing
capacity and the other benefits we get from healthy forests," said
Frank Rambo, Senior Attorney with the SELC, who represents Georgia
ForestWatch and Wild Virginia.

Wayne Jenkins is executive director of Georgia ForestWatch: "If we
don't approach this scientifically and with utmost care in terms of
where we're getting the biomass, how it's grown and so forth, this
could go horribly awry, with whole forests clearcut for a relatively
short burst of energy, leaving streams full of silt, forest soils
depleted and wildlife without a home, plus increased atmospheric

"It is obviously of utmost importance that in trying to fix the
climate problem, EPA should not take steps that actually make it
worse," said Ann Weeks, Senior Counsel for CATF, and the attorney for
Conservation Law Foundation and Natural Resources Council of
Maine. "EPA did not bend to pressure from industry to create
incentives to burn more biomass for energy generation, which can
potentially be more harmful for climate than the fossil fuel it
replaces." We have a strong interest making that
decision stick, by defending this aspect of the rule, at least until
the science on biomass emissions allows a more comprehensive
understanding of the various direct and indirect impacts that
bioenergy has on climate."