Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Articles of Faith

We all know Sen. Susan Collins is serious about climate change. The League of Conservation Voters thinks so. And so does Clean Air-Cool Planet.

Heck, the venerable League of Women Voters is so sure of it that they gave her an award.

Except, y'know, it just isn't true.

Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will take up a controversial measure that would restrict the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to control the release of greenhouse gases by cars and industry. Maine's two moderate Republican senators are considered swing votes on Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's resolution. Both Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have been critical of EPA rules and won't say how they will vote, which is unsettling to environmental groups and state officials.


A sticking point for Collins...[is] the way EPA intends to regulate emissions from burning biomass...

The forest products industry maintains that biomass users should be exempted from EPA rules. They consider biomass combustion carbon-neutral because it releases carbon dioxide into the air, offsetting the CO2 trees sucked in during their growth.

Collins appears to be on the same page. In a statement she says, "While I support regulating greenhouse gas emissions, I have reservations about the sweeping approach EPA is pursuing. For example, for the first time the EPA has classified biomass as not carbon neutral, which could have a negative impact on Maine's forest products industry."

But Maine Environmental Commissioner David Littell says it's one thing to call biomass harvested from sustainable forests carbon-neutral. But he says not all biomass is the same. "We can't accept the proposition that trees that are harvested and cut down for permanent development, that never are going to grow back again, is sustainable and carbon-neutral. Obviously those trees are never going to regrow."

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