MACT finalization should allay some biomass developers' fears

By Anna Austin | April 06, 2011

MACT finalization should allay some biomass developers’ fears

Now that the U.S. EPA’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules have been finalized, developers should have an increased level of certainty with respect to the emission standards that new projects will be required to comply, which may result in an uptick in new project development, according to Art Samberg, senior consultant at environmental consulting firm Golder Associates Inc.

“Some projects were deferred until MACT promulgation so as to better define boiler performance specifications and emission control requirements,” he said. “Other developers may opt not to develop a proposed project due to the stringency of some of the emissions standards for certain boiler categories, but all in all, I predict that there will be a small uptick in project development now that the requirements have been better defined.”

It is still important, however, for developers to be prepared for complications, Samberg said. “Developing a biomass project is challenging in the best of times because the current regulatory environment is extremely dynamic,” he said. “Over the past five years, a number of regulations that affect biomass project development have been promulgated, then remanded, then reproposed, delayed and reissued. During the past two years, there has been an almost unprecedented amount of regulatory activity that impacts project development.”

Because of the increase in regulatory activity, it is important for developers to plan ahead with regard to the construction permitting process. This includes establishing and maintaining an open dialogue with regulatory agencies early in the permitting process, according to Samberg. “As new federal regulations are finalized, each state implements these rules on a different schedule and may invoke their own interpretation of certain requirements.” 

It’s also important to understand the specific nuisances of other new regulations that could complicate matters—for example, the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, which currently is deferred for three years for most biomass projects. “[The Tailoring Rule] enters a new phase on July 1, 2011,” Samberg says. “After this date, major source permitting can be triggered solely if a project has potential emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in excess of 100,000 tons per year (tpy). Many projects have accelerated permitting activities to avoid being subject to these new requirements.”

It is also important to note that acquiring a permit by July 1 is not sufficient to avoid potential applicability. “A project must be in a permanent state of construction in order to avoid potentially being subject to the Tailoring Rule starting July 1,” he says. “As such, if a project that has greater than 100,000 tpy of GHG emissions obtains its construction permit but does not begin construction by July 1, the regulatory agency will likely suspend the permit and require that the project be evaluated for applicability to the major New Source Review regulations, which could increase the permitting timeline and could considerably increase permitting and compliance costs.”

Samberg strongly recommends that biomass project developers communicate with regulatory authorities and the community. “First, reach out to the regulatory agency to align and define the permitting requirements specific to the project,” he says. “It’s advisable to be prepared to demonstrate to the community how your project will be in compliance with the new and existing regulations that are intended to protect the public health and welfare, because if it is difficult for the project developer to understand the new regulations, imagine how difficult it is for the general public.” 

Samberg will elaborate on the issues discussed above during a panel discussion titled Emissions Compliance Strategies for Biomass-Based Energy Facilities at the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

Joining Samberg on the panel are Bradley Ginger of Eisenmann Corp., Robert Mullowney of Monitortech Corp., Lincoln Evans-Beauchamp of Purify Solutions and Jim Stewart of the BioEnergy Producers Association.

To learn more about the International Biomass Conference & Expo, which will be held May 2-5 in St. Louis, visit