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Lawsuits Focus on Biomass Facilities

An exemption for biomass facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act is being challenged in court. The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting biomass facilities from the rules for the next three years because they're considered carbon-neutral or low-carbon emitters. Frank Rambo is the senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center working on that case.

Frank Rambo: "We feel like it's certainly possible that in some circumstances, biomass could be a low-carbon fuel source, but there's no reason to give this sort of blanket, categorical exemption."
The lawsuit comes shortly after Charlotte-based Duke Energy won a ruling from the North Carolina Court of Appeals saying that it could count burning whole trees in its coal-fired plants toward its state renewable energy mandates.  That ruling from the North Carolina Utilities Commission was being challenged by the Environmental Defense Fund and North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.   Environmentalists are considering appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court. State law mandates power companies get 12.5 % percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021. Gudrun Thompson is the senior attorney for the SELC who was working on the case against Duke Energy. She says there are no environmental safeguards on the practice of cutting forests and burning them for electricity.

Gudrun Thompson: "So we're concerned with impacts running the gamut from water quality to whether, in fact, electricity from biomass is carbon neutral, all the way to air emissions from coal-fired power plants where Duke is proposing to burn trees."
Duke Energy did test burns in Rowan County and is considering converting a plant in Rockingham to biomass.

Click "Listen Now" to hear the interview with the two senior attorneys of the Southern Environmental Law Center: Frank Rambo, working on the lawsuit against the EPA, and Gudrun Thompson, who had been working on the case against Duke Energy.

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