Agriculture Should Be Wary of EPA’s Tailoring Rule

We took note Thursday of this line from the EPA’s “Fact Sheet” on its new greenhouse gas tailoring rule:

Emissions from small farms, restaurants, and all but the very largest commercial facilities will not be covered by these programs at this time.

Boil it down: The EPA will not regulate emissions from small farms AT THIS TIME.

Soon enough, though.

So what did Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have to say the implied promise of future regulation of small farms for greenhouse gas emissions? After all, methane is produced by all sorts of farming operations (cows, manure), and it is a potent greenhouse gas.

Secretary Vilsack did issue a statement, but it’s about biomass fuels.

I want to thank the Administrator for agreeing to seek further comment on how to address the greenhouse gas benefits of bioenergy under the Clean Air Act. Energy derived from woody biomass, switch-grass and other sources has potentially enormous benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing clean, home-grown energy, and providing economic opportunities for rural America. Markets for woody biomass can also bolster forest restoration activities on both public and private lands that improve the ecological health of our forests

OK. Important issue, but expanding biomass energy conversion is not uppermost on the minds of most farmers. Operating costs and the impact of federal regulations rank higher.

And the EPA’s rule certainly promises a lot of both.

From pages 415-416 of the final rule:

Although the proposal for the Tailoring Rule generally addressed how the statutory requirements for major source applicability (100/250 tpy thresholds) could be phased in in ways that would offer relief to traditional and non-traditional sources, such as residences, farms, small business, and semiconductor manufacturers, it did so by establishing relatively high CO2 thresholds during the early implementation period and lowering the thresholds over time as streamlining mechanisms become available to reduce administrative burdens. We did not propose any permanent exemptions of any kind or temporary exemptions based on source category.

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