Dear Administrator Jackson:
At a time when our economy is struggling it is imperative that regulations provide clarity and certainty for businesses to make investments that create and sustain jobs. It is with that purpose that we request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expeditiously use its authority to clarify that manufacturers will continue to be able to use cost-effective alternative energy resources to power mills and plants throughout the United States.
As you now, on March 21, 2011, the EPA issued final standards that attempted to clarify the definition of non-hazardous solid waste as established under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). While the intent of this rule, commonly referred to as the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials Rule (NHSM Rule), was to provide certainty and protect public health, it has unfortunately given significant ambiguity to the current use of alternative energy sources, including biomass. We have each heard from paper mills and other businesses in our states that the rule as written may force investments to be curtailed and may require companies to replace biomass with fossil fuels, which disrupts the forest-based economy supply chain and detracts from environmental objectives as well. specifically, one paper company has indicated that, as written, the rule may force the company to negate a $49 million investments which reduces the facility's carbon emissions through the expanded use of biomass. The reason for this is because under the NSHM rule there is uncertainty regarding whether the current biomass fuel inputs would be defined as non-hazardous solid-waste rather than fuel, and thus cause the facility to be regulated as an incinerator and therefore subject to additional costs. Regrettably, this rule has created an incentive for facilities to utilize expensive fossil fuels that may produce elevated levels of emissions, and curtail biomass and other alternative energy investments.
We understand and appreciate that EPA has attempted to clarify that biomass and other alternative energy can continue to be legitimate fuel sources by proposing to issue guidance to clarify that many secondary materials were never intended to be defined as non-hazardous waste. While this effort is welcome, we do not believe it will provide the certainty for employers to make investments in alternative energy and is not a substitute for formal rule revisions. As a result, we request that the EPA move forward with formal rule revisions to help ensure that businesses in America can continue to invest in biomass and other alternative energy resources and can make investments that will avoid using finite and expensive fossil fuels.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to receiving a prompt reply concerning EPA's plans for moving forward with addressing these issues.
Olympia J. Snowe
United States Senator
United States Senator