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Commentary to KUFM Radio Missoula, February 11, 2011

Pat Heffernen, Montana Wood Products Association, Weekly Reader

As Carbon-based life forms, we emit Carbon Dioxide – or CO2 – with every breath. Most of the other organisms that we share our planet with are also Carbon-based and emit CO2. The basic energy input for most life is the radiation energy from the sun, which green plants capture through the process of photosynthesis and then redistribute as plants are eaten by grazing animals; grazing animals are eaten by predators and ad infinitum. This solar energy is also captured and stored in materials like coal, oil and natural gas – the so-called ‘fossil’ fuels – and in the wood fiber of trees; a rapidly-renewable fuel.

One of the vital ingredients of the photosynthesis process is CO2, which, in December 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated as a ‘pollutant’, all on its own, without direction from Congress, and which EPA says: “endangers the public’s health and welfare”. It’s rather like reacting to the thousands’ of deaths caused by di-hydrogen oxide and the need to ban that dangerous chemical too.

Since this ephemeral regulatory cornerstone was laid in place, legislation to create a ‘cap-and-trade’ Carbon Dioxide system – ‘taxing’ CO2 emitting industries and subsidizing ‘green’ energy and rewarding schemes to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere – has died on the vine. Perhaps as ‘revenge’ for the failure of the Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Lieberman legislation, the EPA swung into gear and played the CO2 card. A veritable blizzard (no global warming pun intended) of EPA regulation is on the way; most troubling being the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) and ‘Tailoring’ Rules. Under BACT, an air quality permit applicant will have to propose what BACT technologies and processes they will be using, to reduce emissions of ‘Greenhouse Gases’, but they have no assurance that EPA will concur with their choice, nor does EPA specify what BACT technologies and operational methods may be acceptable for particular sources – a veritable continuous ‘do-loop’ analysis process and fertile playing field for endless litigation.

Worse yet, is the ‘Tailoring’ rule – the ‘Prevention of Significant Deterioration’ and Title Five ‘Greenhouse Gas Tailoring’ Rules – which will regulate emissions from wood-fired, ‘green’ energy power plants, just the same as if they were coal, oil, natural gas, or other ‘fossil’ fuel sources – no advantage here for renewable biomass energy.

To their credit, Senators and Congressmen have weighed-in, including our own Congressional Delegation, imparting their displeasure with EPA’s fervor with these poorly-crafted Greenhouse Gas rules. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack has also weighed-in, as the Forest Service has millions of acres of dead and dying trees, which could be the perfect ‘green’ fuel source for thermal, base-load electrical power. EPA has ‘backed-off’, implementing a three year ‘stay’ of the Tailoring Rule and three Bills will be introduced in Congress this week: Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma and Senator John Barrasso, of Wyoming, are seeking to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under any existing environmental law and Congressman Fred Upton, of Michigan, is introducing legislation that would strip EPA of its authority to limit CO2 emissions from power plants, refineries and other stationary sources. Perhaps as collateral damage from this overreaching of EPA, current White House renewable energy czar, Carol Browner, who ran the EPA for the Clinton Administration, has resigned and current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, may be next…

Meanwhile, at the 2011 Montana Legislature, Senate Joint Resolution 10, by Senator Jason Priest, from Red Lodge, was heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee this last Friday. SJ 10 seeks to encourage Montana’s congressional delegation to get behind legislation preventing EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under existing environmental law. Also last week, Senator Jim Keane, from Butte, introduced SB 233 to focus the reach of the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) to within Montana’s borders, to direct the analysis of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and other state agencies, as they analyze the effects of energy and other state-permitted projects. Senator Keane’s Bill will prevent a continuous MEPA ‘do-loop’ of analyzing the perceived effects of Montana projects on the regional and global environment and will also limit the available playing field for litigation of MEPA analyses and subsequent injunctions against the issuance of permits.

Fasten your seat belts; the MEPA ride is quite a bronco – it’s bucked legislators around before – but it’s a horse worth riding if we are serious about creating natural resource jobs and building the infrastructure necessary for Montana to compete in a global economy.

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