On March 2, 2017, Congressmen Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) reintroduced legislation to expand the current Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver to include E15 motor vehicle fuel. The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act aims to foster the development of a robust energy marketplace by offering the same regulatory relief that has been extended to E10. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to control the volatility of gasoline between June 1 and September 15 to limit vehicle emissions. Congress permitted a RVP waiver for E10 due to its reduced emissions. EPA, however, has continuously refused to extend the waiver to E15 despite its lower volatility compared to E10. The bipartisan legislation would remove the restriction on the sale of E15 during the summer months and allow the fuel to be sold year-round.
On March 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in the Federal Register that an information collection request (ICR) had been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding consultations on the Safer Choice logo redesign. Following the launch of the new Safer Choice logo, EPA plans to conduct consumer surveys to gauge consumer recognition of the new logo and to determine whether the new logo and educational activities are changing purchasing decisions. This ICR was previously published as part of a public review opportunity in the Federal Register on November 3, 2016, and did not receive any comments. With this Notice, there will be an additional 30 days of review as comments are due by April 5, 2017.
On February 23, 2017, the Sierra Club filed a notice of intent to sue EPA for failure to conduct the required environmental impact analysis on the RFS program
. The notice states that EPA failed to assess and report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the RFS program and failed to complete the required anti-backsliding study to determine whether the renewable fuel volumes adversely impacted air quality. According to the notice, EPA has issued only one triennial report on the environmental impact of the program despite the requirement under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) that EPA report to Congress every three years. EISA also mandates that EPA complete an anti-backsliding study within 18 months of the law’s passage, which EPA has failed to conduct. Although EPA has made commitments to complete the second triennial report by December 31, 2017
, and the anti-backsliding study by September 30, 2024
, the Sierra Club stated that such a delay disregards the purpose of the reporting requirements, which is to inform EPA’s annual RFS volume developments and inform Congress of the program’s impacts.
On February 16, 2017, a coalition of Iowa farmers, renewable fuel producers, and retailers urged Scott Pruitt, just prior to his being confirmed as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by rejecting the petition to change the program’s point of obligation. The coalition, which includes the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa (PMCI), and the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB), stated that it is committed to opposing a change in the point of obligation since such a change would be devastating to wholesalers and retailers, who have invested in supporting the RFS program, and to consumers, who would experience a change in pricing dynamics at fuel terminals. Agreeing with EPA’s decision under the Obama Administration, the coalition stated that changing the point of obligation 11 years into the program would create unnecessary chaos and delay. A final decision will be made once EPA has reviewed the public comments on the issue.
On January 31, 2017, two bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress that propose to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the national biofuels mandate. The first bill would require the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to assess the performance, safety, and environmental impact of mid-level ethanol, and the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends compared to gasoline blends containing ten percent or less ethanol. The second bill would reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cellulosic biofuel volume requirements under the RFS program to what is commercially available pending a NAS report on the environmental and economic impacts and feasibility of large scale production of cellulosic biofuel.
On January 24, 2017, the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) sent a letter to President Donald Trump to express its commitment to working with Trump and his administration and to outline its top priorities, including the continuation of EPA’s Safer Choice Program. In the letter, CSPA states that companies have made significant financial and employee investments to develop products that qualify for the Safer Choice logo and to market the products as Safer Choice products. CSPA requested that Trump support the voluntary program, arguing that elimination of it would negate the innovation that resulted from the costly efforts. In addition to continuing the program, the letter suggests that EPA expand the Safer Choice Program to include antimicrobial products that meet the criteria as long as they are not specifically prohibited from using the logo under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
On January 25, 2017, the Urban Air Initiative (UAI), along with the Energy Future Coalition and the states of Kansas and Nebraska, filed a request for correction of information petitioning EPA to correct its models on motor vehicle fuel emissions that limit the use of higher blends of ethanol. In the petition, UAI claims that EPA continues to publish inaccurate data regarding ethanol emissions that originated with its fuel effects study and vehicular emissions computer model, MOVES2014, and describes the fundamental flaws in the design of the study. UAI relied on peer reviewed scientific studies to refute EPA’s ethanol emissions estimates, and called on EPA to respond to the request within 90 days.
On January 18, 2017, Christopher Grundler, the Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed a notice inviting comment on its analysis of the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of sugar beets for use as biofuel feedstock. The notice describes the analysis performed, which considers the extraction of non-cellulosic beet sugar for conversion to biofuel and the use of the remaining beet pulp for animal feed, and how EPA may use the analysis to determine whether biofuels from sugar beets qualify as renewable fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program based on the GHG emission threshold requirement. The notice states that biofuels from sugar beets could qualify as renewable fuel or advanced biofuel, depending on the type and efficiency of the fuel production process technology used. A prepublication version of the report is available now, with a final publication date to be announced. A 30 day public comment period will begin after the formal proposal is published in the Federal Register.