The Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation and the Natural Resources Council of Maine are also asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn EPA’s decision.
The groups fear that the expansion of biomass power will create demand that outstrips the available waste products from forests, which will mean that facilities will use standing trees.
The permitting delay rule EPA issued this year came amid pressure from the forest industry and some Capitol Hill lawmakers who are fearful that applying emissions rules to biomass would stymie the market for the energy source.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson defended the permitting delay when announcing it in January.
“We are working to find a way forward that is scientifically sound and manageable for both producers and consumers of biomass energy. In the coming years we will develop a commonsense approach that protects our environment and encourages the use of clean energy,” she said in a statement.
EPA finalized the delay last month. In addition to power plants that burn biomass, it also applies to a range of other industrial plants that use biomass for energy, such as pulp-and-paper mills and ethanol plants.
EPA said it will use the three-year delay to gather more scientific analysis about how to account for biomass emissions, and then craft a rule about how the emissions should be addressed when determining whether facilities need permits.
But on Monday the green groups that filed the new lawsuit strongly attacked EPA’s decision.
“The EPA has no authority to just waive the Clean Air Act for the benefit of politically favored industries, as it has for the forest products and bioenergy industries here," said Kevin Bundy, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The science is clear: Burning our forests for energy makes no sense as a strategy for dealing with climate change,” he said.