On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA that the EPA’s exemption for “biogenic carbon dioxide” is vacated, and that the EPA had improperly exempted all sources of biogenic carbon dioxide from otherwise applicable permitting requirements.
The ruling clarified that the Clean Air Act limitations on carbon dioxide pollution is applicable to all industrial facilities, which includes tree-burning power plants and other installations burning biomass.
Following the decision, Ann Weeks, Legal Director of the Clean Air Task Force, which represented the Conservation Law Foundation and the Natural Resource Council of Maine, said, “The Court clearly noted that the atmosphere can’t tell the difference between fossil fuel carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide emitted by burning trees.”
Kevin Bundy, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute said, “Burning trees to generate electricity is dangerous, polluting and ought to be limited to protect people and the environment … This important decision will reduce respiratory ailments, protect forests and help ensure a healthier, more livable climate.”
The decision would also help indiscriminate cutting down of trees to fuel tree-burning electricity plants, as the power plants will now have to stay within the limits of the Clean Air Act. Neighborhoods of such power plants would also benefit from a cleaner environment.
The issue arose from a decision by EPA taken in 2011 to exempt “biogenic” sources of carbon dioxide from obeying the Clean Air Act stipulations with regard to carbon dioxide. At the time, the EPA had submitted that it was postponing implementation of the Clean Air Act on such sources while it studied such biogenic emissions to calculate their net effect.
However, the story may not be over, and EPA has indicated that it will review the decision to determine its next steps.