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 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 30, 2018, Earthjustice and the Clean Air Task Force submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a petition “to amend its ‘aggregate compliance’ approach to the definition of biomass under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) … to prevent the conversion of native grasslands.”  The petition was filed on behalf of 11 organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, and urges EPA’s Administrator Andrew Wheeler to amend regulations related to land permissibility for renewable biomass production.  Under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act’s (EISA) RFS, land conversion for the production of renewable fuel sources is restricted to agricultural land cultivated prior to the enactment of the ruling that is nonforested or uncultivated.  Meant to ensure that growing renewable fuel sources would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, the petition claims that these requirements are not being implemented by EPA due to an aggregate compliance system for measuring land use.  Instead, green groups are requesting that EPA use an individualized compliance approach in evaluating biofuel producers to assure compliance with EISA’s land use restrictions.  The petition also requests that EPA require additional “proof that only EISA-compliant land is used to grow crops displaced by renewable biomass production.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 17, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final fees rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the Federal Register.  83 Fed. Reg. 52694.  The final rule largely tracks the proposed rule.  EPA is establishing fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA; or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by EPA; or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation.  This final rulemaking describes the final TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the final TSCA fees were determined.  It identifies some factors and considerations for determining fees for subsequent fiscal years; and includes amendments to existing fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices. As required in TSCA, EPA is also establishing standards for determining which persons qualify as “small business concerns” and thus would be subject to lower fee payments.  Small businesses will be eligible to receive a substantial discount of approximately 80 percent on their fees.  EPA has been hosting a series of webinars focusing on making TSCA submissions and paying fees under the final rule.  The first webinar was held on October 10, 2018, and the second was held on October 24, 2018. The third webinar will be held on November 7, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EST).  The final rule became effective on October 18, 2018. For an overview of the rule, see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s regulatory developments update.
Tags: EPA, TSCA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 16, 2018, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the Trump Administration’s Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Agenda). The Agenda aims to report on actions that administrative agencies, such as EPA, plan to put forward in the near- and long-terms. As its name implies, the Agenda includes both regulatory and deregulatory actions and attempts to justify any burden associated with these actions. According to its announcement, it should reflect four broad regulatory reform priorities: advancing regulatory reform, public notice of regulatory development, transparency, and consistent practice across the Federal Government.
 
Included in the Agenda are the Administration’s estimated timelines for the rulemakings on year-round sales of 15 percent ethanol (E15) sales and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) resetting renewable volume obligations (RVO). It is expected that EPA will release a proposed rule on permitting E15 sales year-round in February 2019, with a final rulemaking expected in May 2019. While the final rulemaking on RFS Biomass-Based Diesel (BBD) volume is expected to be announced in November 2018, the rulemaking on the RFS modification of applicable volumes is predicted to be announced in 2019. According to the Agenda, the proposed rule will be announced in January 2019 and the final rule should follow in December 2019.

Tags: EPA, TSCA, Agenda

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 9, 2018, during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he will order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand its sales of corn ethanol. This action, which farmers across the U.S. have been waiting for, will allow for year-round sales of 15 percent biofuels (E15) ethanol blends. Currently, E15 sales are restricted during the summer months in certain states, limiting the expansion of the market space for biofuels. Well received by many in the industry, the announcement was particularly appreciated by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, which applauded President Trump’s decision in a press release. Brent Erikson, BIO’s Executive Vice President, emphasized in his statement that “[a]llowing E15 to be sold year-round will help unleash the potential of cellulosic biofuels by creating more demand and marked headroom for the next generation of biofuels.”


 

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 September 7, 2018, U.S. Congressman David Young (R-IA) introduced, in a bipartisan effort with U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), the Restoring Our Commitment to Renewable Fuels Act. Under this bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be required “[t]o provide for reallocation of the renewable fuel obligation of exempted small refineries under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7545(o)) to other refineries, blenders, distributors, and importers, and for other purposes.”  As a response to EPA’s 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) proposal, the bill aims to address issues related to the former EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, and his decision to undercut the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) through “hardship” waivers received by refineries. Calling for greater transparency within EPA’s decisions on issuing these waivers, this Act holds EPA accountable to meet and maintain the RVOs set annually. The bill also calls for the reallocation of each gallon of renewable fuel covered by these exemptions.


 

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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