On July 2, 2014, EPA issued a final rule outlining the elements of a voluntary third party quality assurance program to ensure the validity of renewable identification numbers (RIN) petroleum refiners use to confirm compliance with the annual fuel standard. Under the final rule, petroleum marketers may choose between two options to verify the validity of RINs generated between February 21, 2013, and December 31, 2014. Importantly, the final rule includes an affirmative defense for anyone except the generator of the RIN for any civil liability for a RIN that has been verified by a third party auditor. The final rule is available online.
On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Bioenergy Technology Office published in the Federal Register a "Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Integrated Biorefinery Lessons Learned and Best Practices."
According to the RFI, its purpose is "to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to lessons learned and best practices developed during the design, financing, construction, commissioning, startup, shakedown and operations of pilot-, demonstration-, and commercial-scale integrated biorefineries."
A copy of the RFI is available online. Comments are due by July 15, 2014.
On June 26, 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a 38-page report on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), "The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond." The report examines potential compliance with the RFS through 2017 under three scenarios and evaluates the effects on food and fuel prices under each one. A copy of CBO's summary of the report is available online. A copy of the full report is available online.
The report evaluated the impact on food and fuel prices under the following three RFS scenarios through 2017: compliance with the RFS requirements for advanced, biodiesel, and corn ethanol (not cellulosic); compliance with the RFS volume requirements consistent with EPA's proposed 2014 RFS requirements; and repeal of the RFS requirements. While CBO found that food prices would be similar whether the RFS is continued or repealed, it found varying potential effects on fuel prices. For instance, CBO concluded that continuing RFS statutory requirements through 2017 would lead to increased price of all types of transportation fuels, except E85.
Advocates on both sides of the RFS debate are already using the report. Some opponents have already argued that the report's findings further support reforming or repealing the RFS. Some RFS supporters have dismissed the report's conclusions as contrary to those of other respected economists who have studied the RFS and come to different conclusions. The report comes as RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting EPA's release of its final 2014 RFS rule.
On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not review the constitutionality of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). This decision is largely viewed as a win for the California Air Resources Board, the governmental body that regulates the LCFS, and supporters of the law.
On March 20, 2014, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which represent the ethanol industry, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), along with the American Trucking Association and the Consumer Energy Alliance, filed petitions for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final determination on the constitutionality of the LCFS.
The groups challenged the January 2014 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the Ninth Circuit) to deny rehearing en banc in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey. On September 18, 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey reversing a lower court opinion that found that the LCFS violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against ethanol produced outside of California. The LCFS assigns higher carbon intensity values to ethanol produced in the Midwest than in California.
On July 2, 2014, Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (Marrone), a leading global provider of biobased pest management and plant health products, celebrated the official opening of its Marrone Michigan Manufacturing (M3) facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony and plant tours. A copy of Marrone's press release on this announcement is available online.
On June 30, 2014, Rayonier announced that it has completed separation from Rayonier Advanced Materials. Rayonier Advanced Materials is now an independent specialty chemicals company. A copy of Rayonier's press release on the announcement is available online.
On June 27, 2014, Valent BioSciences (Valent) Corporation announced that it held a ceremony to mark the opening of its new $146 million biobased manufacturing facility in Osage, Iowa. A copy of Valent's press release is available online.
Learn How to Pre-Screen New Chemicals Using EPA's Models and Methods at Sustainable Futures Training Workshop
Co-hosted by the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and George Washington University (GWU)
August 5-7, 2014, at the GWU Campus in Washington, D.C.
During this hands-on three-day workshop, you will learn about a variety of tools, methods, and models that can be used to assess the hazard and potential exposure of chemicals. Methods addressed will include hazard and risk screening for human health, ecotoxicity, and environmental fate.
The workshop includes in-depth presentations and hands-on sessions with EPA's computer-based models. Using these models, companies can identify potentially risky chemicals early in the development process and reduce risk by finding safer substitutes and/or processes before submitting them to EPA. They can also be used to help stakeholders identify potential chemicals of concern from existing chemical inventories or supply chains.
Invited presenters include EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) staff with experience in the EPA New Chemicals Program and Premanufacture Notification (PMN) review process.
Companies that complete the training can be eligible to receive reduced regulatory review time for dual PMN/Test Market Exemption Application (TMEA) submissions.
More information is available online.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday, June 23, 2014, which upheld the authority of EPA to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA), but with limitations. The Court held that EPA may require permits and carbon control efforts for large stationary sources that emit large quantities of carbon dioxide. The emission of certain quantities of other regulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions -- not carbon dioxide alone -- must trigger the requirements, however. The Court held that EPA went impermissibly beyond its authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the CAA when, under its "Tailoring Rule," the Agency raised the triggering thresholds for carbon dioxide regulation.
The biomass community has been weighing in on EPA efforts to determine how to account for bioenergy emissions under its Tailoring Rule. Despite this week's Supreme Court ruling, there are ongoing efforts to urge EPA to issue in final its biogenic carbon accounting framework for those bioenergy facilities that would trigger permitting and other carbon control requirements based on the levels of emission of regulated GHG emissions other than carbon dioxide. See related item below.
On June 19, 2014, over 90 scientists sent a letter to EPA urging the Agency to move forward under its Tailoring Rule by "1) moving beyond the flawed assumption that bioenergy is inherently carbon neutral; 2) rejecting the regional accounting method originally proposed in the draft Accounting Framework; and 3) ensuring a scientifically sound methodology for determining the carbon emissions impact to the atmosphere from burning long-recovery woody biomass feedstocks -- most notably, whole trees." A copy of the letter is available online. There were significant actions on this issue last year, with several groups urging EPA to find that bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions are carbon neutral for purposes of new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule.
On July 12, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA. The court vacated EPA's rule (the Deferral Rule) exempting bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions from new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule for a period of three years. This deferral was intended to allow EPA time to study and develop a proper method of accounting for GHG emissions from these sources. The court held that EPA did not meet the standards to justify its Deferral Rule under any of the four doctrines it had invoked.
In August 2013, several biomass groups sent a letter to then-newly sworn-in EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging EPA to find that bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions are carbon neutral for purposes of new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule.
On August 28, 2013, the Solid Waste Association of North America and the National Solid Wastes Management Association sent a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy urging EPA to issue quickly a final rule clarifying how biogenic carbon emissions will be treated under Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting requirements, and to determine that biogenic carbon emissions from municipal solid waste should be categorically excluded from the new PSD and Title V GHG reporting requirements.
On June 20, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), H.R. 4870, including language repealing Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Section 526). Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring synfuel unless its lifecycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.
BRAG reported that last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4435, including language exempting DOD from complying with Section 526. A copy of that BRAG report is available online.
Since Section 526 was passed in 2007, there has been an annual attempt to repeal or modify the language to reduce DOD's obligations pursuant to it. The biofuels industry generally has advocated against repealing this Section of the law.
On June 23, 2014, U.S. algae developer Cellana, Inc. announced that it has entered into a letter of intent with Galil Algae Cooperative Agriculture Society Limited of Israel for the production of high-value algae products for aquaculture applications. The primary objective of this effort is to identify, cultivate, develop, and scale-up algae strains with immediate commercial value, emphasizing the high-value components for existing aquaculture, mariculture, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and/or cosmetic applications. A copy of Cellana's press release is available online.
On June 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) designed to promote scientific breakthroughs in energy. Under this round of funding, DOE is providing $100 million to support 32 EFRC projects throughout the country. According to DOE's press release on the announcement, the selected EFRCs "will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments." A copy of the press release is available online. A full list of EFRC awardees, including brief project descriptions, is available online.
On June 20, 2014, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting that the court rehear whether Monroe Energy (Monroe), a refining subsidiary of Delta Airlines, had standing to challenge EPA's final rule setting the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). BRAG reported on the court's recent denial of Monroe's challenge to that final rule. A copy of that report is available online.
As BRAG reported, the court held that EPA properly utilized its authority under the federal RFS to set the 2013 RFS volume requirements. The court disagreed with Monroe that EPA did not sufficiently consider factors in setting the final 2013 RFS rule, including the means of compliance for obligated parties. NBB wants the court to find that Monroe did not have standing to bring the challenge to the 2013 final RFS rule because the Company failed to show that a change to the rule would have changed the way that third parties acted with respect to their Renewable Identification Numbers. Reportedly, NBB would like the court to narrow the scope of groups that may bring challenges to the annual RFS rules set by EPA as part of the trade association's efforts to protect the RFS law.