The West's nascent biomass industry faces many challenges as power producers try to turn things like beetle-killed trees and switchgrass into energy. Regulatory uncertainty remains a problem: Last spring, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that require industrial sources, like coal-fired power plants, to obtain air permits and limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Biomass-fueled power plants were not exempt, although producers argued that they should be since the renewable fuel can actually reduce net carbon emissions (HCN, 11/08/10, "Burning questions about biomass").
The EPA recently announced that, for the next three years, it will not regulate greenhouse gas emissions from biomass facilities. Under pressure from lawmakers concerned that the new rule would hamper biomass energy development, the agency said it will use that time to assess how various forms of biomass fuel contribute to greenhouse gas pollution.