After months of threats of new restrictive rulings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that paralyzed Maine’s woody biomass industry, alternative energy producers can finally breathe a very measured sigh of relief. Apparently the pressure of an end-of-the-month decision-making deadline was too much for EPA bureaucrats, so they instead made a ruling not to make a ruling. Technically, they ruled to allocate another three years for “research” and “review.”
On the surface, this is good news for Maine’s biomass producers. There was a very real possibility that the EPA ruling was going to impose strict emission controls, the kind usually reserved for fossil fuel pollutants, on woody biomass, an energy form universally recognized as carbon-neutral. This action would have put investments and jobs in this growing sector directly at risk in already tough times.
That’s the sliver lining. Now for the cloud: by engaging in exactly the kind of “kicking the can down the road” that politicians on both sides of the aisle are loudly decrying, has the EPA damaged biomass’ growth anyway? This thought-provoking op-ed in the Oregonian argues that there is a legitimate chance the EPA’s three year waiting period will severely hinder investment and expansion in the biomass industry, as stakeholders watch and wait to see what is coming down the pike before assuming any more risk.
In the meantime, Mainers can only hope that biomass innovators continue to expand and create jobs, elected officials like Sen. Susan Collins keep the pressure on the administration and agencies to make responsible decisions, and the EPA takes advantage of this extended “review” period to read their own research that lists biomass as a renewable form of energy.