On July 31, 2014, EPA again extended the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) annual compliance reporting and attest engagement reporting deadlines for obligated parties under the law. The Agency issued a direct final rule extending the deadlines to 30 and 90 days, respectively, after the final 2014 RFS rule is published in the Federal Register. EPA simultaneously issued a rule proposing the new deadlines on which the public may comment. The new deadlines will become effective September 29, 2014, barring any adverse comment. Copies of the pre-published versions of the direct final rule and the proposed rule are available online and online.
EPA's action is significant in light of the current battle over the fate of the federal RFS. By law, EPA is required to issue the following year's annual renewable volume obligations (RVO) for obligated parties by November 30. This means that EPA was expected to issue the final 2014 RFS rule by November 30, 2013. Instead, EPA did not propose the 2014 RFS RVOs until November 2013, and it is still working to issue in final those revised volume obligations. RFS opponents, including many obligated parties, have used this delay in their arguments against the law. While RFS supporters, including many in the biofuels industry, remain supportive of EPA, they too have publicly called for EPA to issue the 2014 RFS final rule as soon as possible. This latest extension by EPA suggests to all sides that the issuance of the final 2014 RFS rule may be further delayed.
BRAG has been reporting on ongoing 2014 RFS developments. A recent report focused on ongoing 2014 RFS advocacy efforts. A copy of that report is available online.
This week, DOE hosted its seventh annual biomass conference. This year's conference focused on "Growing the Future Bioeconomy." Over 500 attendees from throughout the country and around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Keynote speakers included U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from DOE, and Kate Brandt from the Federal Environmental Executive, Council on Environmental Quality. Policy and technology innovations were discussed in breakout sessions with a focus on how to best position the bioeconomy for future growth. While biofuels were a focus of this conference, there was also interest in other bioproducts that can further grow the bioeconomy. This was explored in a breakout session titled "Integration of Supply Chains II: Bioproducts -- Enabling Biofuels and Growing the Bioeconomy," where industry professionals and researchers discussed how increasing production and commercialization of bioproducts can bring in more revenue while also spurring the production of biofuels. Photos, quotes, and insights shared by a variety of sources can be found on Twitter by searching #biomass2014. A copy of the conference agenda is available online. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) were proud sponsors of Biomass 2014.
DOE will reportedly join the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "Farm to Fly" initiative to help promote the development and use of sustainable aviation biofuels. Under the initiative, USDA, Boeing, and the Air Transport Association of America are working together to accelerate the availability of commercially viable and sustainable aviation biofuels in the United States to increase domestic energy security, establish regional supply chains, and support rural development. The initiative was renewed in 2013 for another five years. More information on the "Farm to Fly" program is available online.
Reportedly, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) plans to introduce a bill to modify the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The bill is expected to be introduced soon after EPA releases its final rule setting the final 2014 RFS volume requirements for obligated parties under the law. Just this week the Administration has made public statements to suggest that the final 2014 rule will increase volume requirements from the proposed version published last fall. Generally, the oil and gas industry supports reducing annual RFS volume requirements, while biofuels supporters want to see the volume requirements in the statute remain as is.
On July 14, 2014, EPA announced recipients of funding to develop and commercialize innovative, sustainable technologies to address current environmental issues. Among the recipients were the following companies pursuing biobased products:
* Sustainable Bioproducts, LLC, Bozeman, Montana, for Direct Conversion of Municipal and Agricultural Wastes to Biodiesel and Ethanol Utilizing a Unique Extremophilic Fungus.
* Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Biofuel Production from Grease Trap Waste.
More information is available online.
On July 15, 2014, Inside EPA reported that "the White House is examining options for reversing EPA's proposed cuts to several renewable fuel standard (RFS) production targets in order to promote biofuels that create fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than conventional fuels, informed sources say, as part of the Obama administration's broader efforts to combat climate change."
The article also quotes sources stating:
"[F]igures under discussion between administration officials and industry representatives include raising the renewable fuel target -- largely met with corn ethanol production -- from 13 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 13.5-13.6 billion gallons in the final rule; increasing the advanced biofuel target from 2.2 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 2.3-2.5 billion gallons; and raising the biomass-based diesel target from 1.28 billion gallons under the proposed rule to 1.5-1.7 billion gallons in the final rule.
"The most dramatic increase under consideration is said to be for cellulosic biofuel, which would rise from 17 million gallons in the proposed rule to 23 million gallons in the final rule, the sources say. "
On July 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is making an additional $4 billion available in loan guarantees for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. Part one of the solicitation is due October 1, 2014. Copies of the solicitation and fact sheet about the solicitation are available online.
According to DOE's press release on the announcement, "the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvement." A copy of DOE's press release is available online.
DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosts its seventh annual conference -- Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy -- July 29-30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted with Advanced Biofuels USA, this year's conference will take place at the Washington Convention Center. As in past years, Biomass 2014 will bring together top government officials and members of Congress -- with industry leaders and experts from across the bioenergy supply chain -- to continue ongoing dialogue about the critical challenges and key opportunities for the industry. The event will focus on the innovative technologies, priority pathways, financing strategies, and public policies needed to grow the bioeconomy of the future. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) will be at Biomass -- stop by our table and say "Hi." More information is available online.
On July 2, 2014, EPA released a signed, pre-published version of its final rule for "Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Pathways II and Modifications to the RFS Program, Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Requirements, and E15 Misfueling Mitigation Requirements." Under the rule, EPA qualifies certain additional fuel pathways that the Agency has determined meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the RFS. The final rule also provides guidance regarding the feedstocks that EPA considers to be crop residues, including clarification that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue. In addition, under the rule, EPA is also "finalizing other minor amendments related to survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program and misfueling mitigation regulations for 15 volume percent ethanol blends (E15)." A copy of the rule is available online.
The final rule differs from the proposed version of the rule in several respects. For instance, in its "fact sheet" describing the rule, EPA states that it is "not finalizing the proposed advanced butanol pathway, the proposed pathways for the production of renewable diesel, naphtha and renewable gasoline from biogas, the definition of responsible corporate officer, or the proposed amendments to compliance related provisions in Section 80.1452 (requirements related to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS)). The Agency is deferring a final decision on these matters until a later time."
Under the final rule, the following pathways are now qualified for cellulosic and advanced fuel under the RFS:
* Compressed natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated municipal solid waste (MSW) digesters;
* Liquefied natural gas produced from biogas from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters; and
* Electricity used to power electric vehicles produced from landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated MSW digesters.
With this rule, EPA is trying to help facilitate RFS compliance by allowing additional pathways to qualify under the program.
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.