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 April 30, 2019, 15 U.S. Senators signed and submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, urging him to protect U.S. consumers and account for the ethanol blend wall when setting annual target volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) requirements. According to the letter, a decrease in consumer demand for gasoline has occurred since the RFS Program was passed into law. Instead of the original 170 billion gallons projected, now, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a gasoline demand for 2020 to be closer to 142 billion gallons and to decrease to 137 billion gallons by 2022. Therefore, in the letter, the Senators request that EPA acknowledge the “market reality when resetting the statutory targets such that the contribution of conventional biofuel is set below an implied 10 percent level for 2020.” They also emphasize that, should EPA fail to reset the volume below the blend wall, EPA would be violating the Congressional intent set forth under RFS, harming both consumers and refiners

Tags: RFS, Biofuel, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 29, 2019, the National Chicken Council submitted a letter to EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality outlining the potentially negative impact of the changes to the biofuels policy on the poultry industry. In his letter to EPA, Mike Brown, President of the National Chicken Council, reported concern with EPA’s proposal on year-round ethanol-15 (E15) use under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) Program. The National Chicken Council believes that EPA has failed to consider the impact of such volume waivers on the boiler industry, and for poultry and livestock feeders generally. Brown assures EPA that a year-round E15 use waiver “will result in a rapid expansion of corn use under the RFS adding the potential for price and supply volatility in the corn market.” Instead of the aforementioned proposed modifications, the National Chicken Council is suggesting that EPA consider a predictable, transparent off-ramp based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stocks-to-use-ratio in the June World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. Partial waivers would then be structured for the remainder of the year. The structure of the partial waivers is further detailed in the letter.

Tags: E15, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 17, 2019, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, spoke at a press conference alongside Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, on how the approval of small-refinery exemptions (SRE) for the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blend levels would undermine RFS in an irreversible way.  IRFA’s Executive Director, Monte Shaw, pointed out that under current conditions all a refinery needs to show significant disproportionate economic harm to be granted an SRE is to purchase Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN).  RINs, also known as compliance credits, can be purchased for as little as eight cents, which undermines RFS and breaks President Trump’s promise to protect the 15-billion-gallon RFS.  Shaw concludes:  “[t]he bottom line is this:  If you grant SREs under these circumstances with eight-cent RINs, then what EPA is really saying is that they will always grant SREs and the hope of a true 15-billion-gallon RFS is dead.”

Tags: IRFA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

In March 2019, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a conservation organization working across the U.S., published a report called New Research Findings Link Biofuel Mandate to Environmental Harm.  According to the report, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its implementation are leading to environmental disaster which involves the destruction of the monarch butterfly habitat, climate change acceleration, and drainage of western aquifers, amongst other issues.  The research referred to in the NWF report was prepared by the University of California-Davis, University of Wisconsin, and Kansas State University.  Scientists at the aforementioned institutions have assessed the direct connection between the U.S. biofuels policy and specific economic and field-level environmental changes since RFS’ inception ten years ago.  The report summarizes some of these connections and outlines measures Congress and the Administration must take to prevent further damage.

Tags: Biofuel, NWF, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 18, 2019, (EPA) announced a public hearing to be held for the proposed rule: “Modifications to Fuel Registrations to Provide Flexibility for E15: Modifications to RFS RIN Market Regulations.”  84 Fed. Reg. 9734.  The proposed rule would implement regulatory changes allowing E15 to take advantage of a Renewal Fuels Standard (RFS) program waiver. Currently, the 1-psi Raid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver only applies to ten percent ethanol (E10) during the summer months. The proposed rule also includes an interpretative definition of E15 gasoline as “substantially similar” to the fuel used to certify Tier 3 motor vehicles.  Lastly, EPA is also proposing changes to some RFS compliance system elements that would improve renewable identification number market functioning and prevent market manipulation.  The public hearing will take place in Ypsilanti, MI, on March 29, 2019.  The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on March 21, 2019.  84 Fed. Reg. 10584. Comments are due by April 29, 2019.

Tags: EPA, RFS, RIN, Biofuel

 

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

 
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