The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On December 8, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register regarding its plans to submit an information collection request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on recordkeeping and reporting for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  The notices states that the ICR aims to streamline and update estimates related to the RFS program and consolidate all RFS estimates into one, consistent, and easy-to-understand format.
 
EPA is seeking public comment and information to enable it to: 

  • Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  • Evaluate the accuracy of EPA’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
​​According to the notice, EPA intends to amend the ICR based on the comments received.  More information regarding the ICR is available in the EPA docket.  Comments are due by February 6, 2018
Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 30, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final 2018 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel.  A pre-publication of the final rule is available now.  The final rule sets the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019.  The proposed volume requirements are:

  • Cellulosic biofuel, from 311 million gallons in 2017 to 288 million gallons in 2018;
  • Advanced biofuel, from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 4.29 billion gallons in 2018;
  • Renewable fuel, from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 19.29 billion gallons in 2018; and
  • Biomass-based diesel, 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 and 2019.​

The cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel volumes increased slightly from the values proposed in July 2017, as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post EPA Releases Proposed 2018 RFS Volume Requirements.  These final volumes change the percentage standards to 0.159 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.37 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.67 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel.  This final rule becomes effective on 60 days after publication in the Federal Register

Tags: EPA, Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 30, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing its decision to deny several petitions requesting that EPA initiate a rulemaking to change the point of obligation for compliance under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  Under the RFS program, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel fuel are identified as “obligated parties” responsible for compliance with the RFS annual standards.  In 2016, EPA received several petitions requesting a revision of the definition of “obligated party,” stating that such a change would align compliance responsibilities with the parties best positioned to make decisions on how much renewable fuel is blended into the transportation fuel supply in the United States.  As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post, “EPA Announces Opportunity To Comment On Changing The RFS Point Of Obligation,” EPA requested public comment on the petitions and the Agency’s proposed denial of the requests.  In reviewing the petitions and public comments, EPA stated that its primary consideration was whether or not a change in the point of obligation would improve the effectiveness of the program to achieve Congress’s goals.  According to the notice, EPA determined that such a change would not improve the efficiency of the program, but would unnecessarily increase the complexity of the program and undermine the success of the RFS program.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 31, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its final rule to set the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018 and 2019 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA must issue a final rule to set standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel by November 30, 2017.  Typically, OMB review is the last step before the final rule is published in the Federal Register and takes 30 days. Timely issuance of the final volume requirements is critical for preventing uncertainty in the biofuel industry. In previous years, delays in the establishment of volume requirements resulted in a decrease in production and investments in the biofuel industry.

  • 238 million gallons for cellulosic biofuel in 2018, down from 311 million gallons in 2017; 
  • 4.24 billion gallons for advanced biofuel in 2018, down from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017;
  • 19.24 billion gallons for renewable fuel in 2018, down from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017; and
  • 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019.
Many in the biofuels industry were concerned with the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel, compared to previous years.  In an October 19, 2017, letter to Republican Senators, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated that the final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  More information on the proposed requirements is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post, “EPA Publishes Proposed 2018 RFS Requirements.”
Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) to confirm his commitment to support the spirit and the letter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, Pruitt stated that, following a detailed analysis, numerous stakeholder meetings, and review of public comments, it was determined that EPA would not grant the petition to move the point of obligation to blenders.  Additionally, EPA intends to issue a final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rulemaking by the statutory deadline of November 30, 2017.  While the rulemaking process is ongoing, Pruitt indicated that the final RVO amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  Finally, Pruitt highlighted EPA’s willingness to work with Congress on a nationwide Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for E15.  Senators Ernst, Grassley, Thune, and Fischer each released statements to confirm their commitment to working collaboratively with EPA on these issues.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Senate

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Data Availability (NODA) regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements (see EPA Issues NODA Regarding RFS Program).  On September 27, 2017, Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the proposed reduction in the volume requirements for 2018 and 2019.  In the letter, Ernst highlights the importance of renewable fuel with regard to jobs in rural America, and energy security for the U.S. Additionally, the letter states that “[w]hile the [NODA] technically ‘provides the public notice and an opportunity to comment,’ in reality it serves to make the case for substantially lowering the volumes for U.S. produced biodiesel, just as domestic producers are making investments to bring unused capacity back online.” 
 
In a September 26, 2017, statement, Grassley described the proposed reduction in renewable fuel volumes as a “bait-and-switch from the EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from the President himself and Cabinet secretaries in [Grassley’s] office prior to confirmation for their strong support of renewable fuels.”  According to Grassley, reducing the volume requirements would undermine domestic renewable fuel production, which contradicts the goal of America first, employing U.S. workers, and improving the U.S. economy and meeting the country’s fuel needs.
 
Additionally, industry representatives have raised concerns over Trump’s nomination of William Wehrum to be the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR).  In a statement regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the nomination of Wehrum, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor highlighted the essential role the Assistant Administrator plays in managing EPA’s fuel policies and the need for assurance that EPA remains in sync with Trump and his commitment to renewable fuels.  Skor urged the Senate to ensure that Wehrum would carry out the duties of the position in a manner that expands on the progress made since the RFS was passed. 

Tags: Iowa, RFS, Response

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 4, 2017, EPA issued a NODA in the Federal Register to provide supplemental information and an opportunity for further public comment on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the RFS program.  The NODA follows the Agency’s July 21, 2017, proposed rulemaking on the volume requirements and provides additional information on production, imports, and cost of renewable fuel, and several options for how EPA may consider such data in establishing the final volume requirements. 
 
In the notice, EPA acknowledges its authority under the Clean Air Act to waive a portion of the biomass-based diesel standard if there is a significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance that would make the price of biomass-based diesel fuel increase significantly, and to make related reductions in the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volume requirements.  EPA is seeking comments on whether it is appropriate to use this waiver authority in the final rule.  Additionally, EPA invites comments on whether it is appropriate to consider possible impacts of the volumes of domestic production and imports on U.S. energy independence and security in setting the applicable standards under the RFS program, and on appropriate ways to determine the applicable volume requirements for 2018, and the biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2019.
 
Comments are due October 19, 2017.

Tags: EPA, NODA, RFS, CAA

 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to the request by Senator Whitehouse and four other Democratic Senators to explain Carl Icahn’s role in shaping the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  According to Pruitt, Icahn did not exercise excessive influence on the U.S. biofuels policy while acting as an advisor of President Trump.  The letter states that Icahn was one of many advisors that Trump met with during his confirmation and no assurances were made regarding any substantive issue, including the point of obligation.  Following an investigation into the e-mails of 39 of EPA’s senior leadership, EPA’s Office of Environmental Information (OEI) found no correspondence to or from Icahn or his company, CVR Energy, between February and August.  A spokesman for Senator Whitehouse stated that the letter was being reviewed “for accuracy and to determine whether additional steps are warranted.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Ichan

 
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