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 Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 22, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of a proposed partial consent decree in Sierra Club v. Pruitt.  This notice is in response to a complaint filed by the Sierra Club in October 2017 to the District of Columbia Court.  The complaint alleged that former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “failed to perform a non-discretionary duty to assess and report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the Energy Independence Security Act’s (EISA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.”  The complaint also alleged that Pruitt failed to complete the required anti-backsliding study to determine if RFS program fuels adversely impact air quality.  Concerned about Pruitt’s failure to promulgate fuel regulations to prevent potential adverse impacts, the Sierra Club also criticized the former Administrator’s determination that such regulatory measures were even necessary.
 
In response to these complaints, EPA is now proposing a partial consent decree which would establish a deadline for anti-backsliding studies.  EPA is now accepting written comments on the proposed partial consent decree, which must be submitted by March 25, 2019.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 29, 2019, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Geoff Cooper, submitted a letter to EPA Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reset Rule. Addressing EPA’s final RFS rule that would be released in Spring 2019 resetting statutory RFS blending obligations for 2020, 2021, and 2022, as well as biomass-based diesel blending obligations for 2021 and 2022, the letter reflects RFA’s expectations as EPA completes the rulemaking. RFA would like EPA to use the Reset Rule “as an opportunity to adjust future implied blending obligations for conventional renewable fuels” accounting for three considerations:

  1. The 500 million gallons of renewable fuel waived improperly from the 2016 standards;
  2. The 232 million Renewable Identification Number (RIN) write-off from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining and Marketing, L.L.C. bankruptcy settlement; and
  3. The 2.25 billion RIN values attributable to 48 small refinery exemptions granted in 2016 and 2017.

In his letter, Mr. Cooper claims that these three considerations resulted in ethanol plant idling/shutdown, layoffs, and decreased demand and prices for farmers. Mr. Cooper, therefore, requests that the aforementioned considerations be accounted for in the implementation of the Reset Rule, stating that the rule “provides the perfect vehicle for EPA to make appropriate adjustments to ensure the statutory volumes are met” and “satisfies the Congressional intent behind the RFS program.”

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 8, 2019, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a non-profit public policy organization supporting free-market, published the Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 116th Congress report for the Congress’ consideration.  The report identifies strategies for Congress to take in eliminating federal regulations that interfere in the lives of consumers, making it more difficult to access the best services and products available to Americans.  The proposed congressional agenda put forth by CEI includes nine policy areas that they believe should be the focus of reform.  Some of these areas include regulatory reform and agency oversight, trade, banking and finance, private and public lands, and energy and environment, among others.
 
In the report’s “Energy and Environment” chapter, CEI recommends that Congress freeze the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires refiners to blend biofuel into petroleum-based fuel.  CEI claims that the RFS has unintended consequences such as bidding up the price of corn, soy, and other crops, as well as driving motorists to spend more on fuel, rather than benefiting the environment.  The recommendation is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sunset the RFS Program for 2022 to assure that competition and consumer preference are the ultimate drivers leading a certain type of fuel to succeed or fail in the marketplace.  To access the full report, click here.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel, CEI

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 30, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final renewable fuels volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2019 and the biomass-based diesel volumes for 2020.  The final rule establishes that the 15-billion gallon targets originally set by Congress for 2019 will be maintained and primarily met by corn ethanol.  Additionally, in 2019, advanced biofuel volumes will increase by 630 million gallons and cellulosic biofuel volumes by 130 million gallons over the 2018 standard.  The biomass-based diesel volumes for 2020 will increase by 330 million gallons over the 2019 standard of 2.1 billion gallons.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the submission for review of an information collection request (ICR) on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  83 Fed. Reg. 56319.  The Federal Register notice states that purpose of this submission is to obtain OMB approval of an ICR that consolidates some existing collections.  By consolidating the existing collections and recordkeeping updates, EPA is aiming to create a new, consistent, and easily understandable format to report burden and cost estimates related to the RFS program.  Additionally, the ICR requests approval of updates to the recordkeeping and reporting burden along with cost estimated in December 2017.  EPA requested comments on this ICR for a 60-day period.  The November 13, 2018, notice extends the request for public comments by an additional 30 days.  Additional comments may be submitted on or before December 13, 2018.  The estimated burden approximates 566,665 hours per year, with a total estimated cost of $57,457,330 per year.  The cost estimate includes $0 of annualized capital or operation and maintenance costs.

Tags: EPA, RFS, OMB, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 15, 2018, U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Danny Davis (D-IL) submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concern over President Trump’s issuance of waivers to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Particularly worried about EPA’s recent actions to waive RFS blending requirements, the letter, signed by 19 members of Congress, urges EPA “to halt the issuance of additional RFS waivers and to reallocate waived gallons in the 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations.” According to the letter, the issuance of these waivers has led to higher gas prices and higher emission levels, particularly, in communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution. Given the largely negative impacts of these waivers, the letter also highlights the benefits and importance of biofuels in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and, consequently, improving public health outcomes. “The Trump administration’s decision to abandon RFS goals has already set back our progress by 5 years,” Representative Gallego expanded in a press release.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has included a new data portal on its website to promote greater transparency on small refineries exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Criticized in the past for its lack of transparency, EPA’s new RFS data portal also provides previously undisclosed information on Renewable Identification Number (RIN) transactions, renewable fuel volume production, average RIN prices, and RIN transaction volumes. The data available dates back to July 1, 2010, which is when EPA started collecting the information provided. EPA intends to update the data portal on a monthly basis.

Tags: EPA, Biofuel, RFS, RIN

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 23, 2018, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and 37 others submitted a bipartisan letter, asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as proposed by EPA in June 2018. Under the aforementioned proposed RFS, EPA would raise the advanced biofuel volume for 2019 to 4.88 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2020 to 2.43 billion gallons. The bipartisan group argues that although these increases may be promising, the potential of biodiesel is still taken too lightly. Not only does the biodiesel industry have prodigious growth potential, its expansion would significantly generate jobs in the U.S. In particular, the Senators emphasized the need to also recognize small refiners’ economic hardship exemptions during the 2019 compliance year.

Tags: Senate, RFS, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set renewable fuel percentage standards annually. On July 10, 2018, EPA announced a request for comments on a proposed rule to address “volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that are below the statutory volume targets.” The proposal also included the applicable volume of diesel from biomass for 2020. In response to EPA’s request, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, submitted comments to EPA on August 17, 2018. BIO emphasized in its comments the vitality of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Arguing that the proposed rule promulgates a risk to the biofuels industry and rural economy, BIO urged EPA to resolve the issues that may be caused by raising the volumes of advanced and cellulosic biofuel. Among these issues, the undercut to these increases in volume by the issuance of small refinery exemptions would stop the reallocation of gallons to other obligated parties.

Tags: BIO, EPA, CAA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW Committee) held a hearing entitled “Examining EPA’s Agenda:  Protecting the Environment and Allowing America’s Economy to Grow.”  Testifying at the hearing was Andrew Wheeler, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acting Administrator.  Witness testimony and an archive of the hearing are available online.  The hearing was intended to provide Wheeler with the opportunity to present himself for the first time in front of the EPW Committee as the Acting Administrator, and to update the EPW Committee on EPA’s agenda since the resignation of Scott Pruitt, EPA’s former Administrator.  Wheeler’s testimony highlighted three main priorities for EPA moving forward:  (1) regulatory certainty between EPA and state/local governments; (2) improvement of programs within EPA; and (3) increased transparency in risk communication. On biofuels, Wheeler stated that EPA has approved pathways for biofuels derived from sorghum which “lays the groundwork for more homegrown fuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and adds diversity to the nation’s biofuel mix.”

Tags: Senate, EPA, RFS

 
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