The Center for Biodiversity says burning forests and other biomass is not carbon neutral.
Photo: Darvin Atkeson

Center for Biological Diversity files petition to correct EPA claim that biomass is carbon neutral

  • July 28th, 2010 9:01 pm PT
  • By Karen Hansen, SF Solar Energy Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO- The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today per the Data Quality Act (DQA) urging the Environmental Protection Agency to better account for carbon greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that burn biomass such as trees and other wood products for power.

The Data Quality Act became law in 2002 to assure greater veracity in the reporting of data per the increased use of the internet and subsequent greater number of the public accessing the information, disseminating it quickly, and greater likelihood of possibly modifying that data.

The Center's Request for Correction of Information is about the emissions from biomass combustion being carbon neutral in the EPA's annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report .The Center claims scientific information showing that this assumption is incorrect.

Burning forests is not clean energy

Center attorney Kevin Bundy said "Burning America's forests for energy isn't clean, isn't green and certainly isn't carbon neutral. Biomass emits as much or more carbon dioxide than coal, and forests can take decades or even centuries to pull that carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere after being logged."

Bundy further testified, "In the short term, the period most critical to averting the worst impacts of climate change converting the carbon stored in trees into global warming pollution makes no scientific or policy sense.

Scientists have identified EPA's assumption that biomass energy generation is carbon neutral as the source of critical errors in calculating the greenhouse impacts of biomass power plants. Underestimating the effect of burning trees on the atmosphere may encourage further investment in biomass rather than cleaner technologies.

Public review and participation avoided

The Center's petition also challenges the EPA's failure to consider and respond to public comments on the inventory. According to EPA's own guidelines, public review and participation in the inventory process is critical to ensuring the integrity and quality of the final product. Yet the EPA released its final inventory document mere hours after the deadline for submitting public comments. A letter submitted by the Center and several other organizations, supported by more than a dozen scientific exhibits, was ignored.

Nikki Reisch, a New York University law student and legal intern who prepared the petition on the Center's behalf said, "Each of the past several years, EPA has reduced the time available for considering public comment, effectively shutting both the public and independent scientists out of the process.

Reisch furthered, "This year, EPA left itself only a few hours between midnight and morning to consider the science and the views of the public. This not only fails to inspire confidence in EPA's final product, but also violates the law.