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 Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.

On April 5, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Industrial Microbes, Inc. (Industrial Microbes) has been awarded $300,000 in funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to develop a green fermentation platform to replace carbon-emitting petrochemical production with newer methods that use methane and carbon dioxide to produce chemicals.  The project aims to improve the efficiency of chemical manufacturing while limiting pollution using a fermentation process based on engineered enzyme pathways within living cells, similar to the chemical conversion process used to brew beer.  Well-to-gate life cycle analysis of the process demonstrated that carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by six-fold compared to the current production process, due to carbon dioxide fixation and more efficient unit operations.  Industrial Microbes is one of nine small businesses that received a total of nearly $2.7 million in funding through the SBIR Program to develop and commercialize new environmental technologies.


 

On March 21, 2017, the renewable fuel volume requirements for 2017, which were issued in final by EPA on December 12, 2016, were implemented.  The effective date for the 2017 requirements was delayed following the Presidential directive to postpone the implementation of new regulations to allow for review by the new administration.  Although EPA has yet to publish an announcement on the matter, industry stakeholders have welcomed the 2017 biofuel volumes and 2018 biomass-based diesel volumes.  As reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “EPA Publishes Final 2017 RFS Requirements,” the volume requirements are:
 

■  311 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2017;
 
■   4.28 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in 2017;
 
■  19.28 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2017; and
 
■  2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel in 2018.
Tags: EPA, RFS, 2017, Biofuel

 

On March 13, 2017, the South Dakota Farmers Union announced that the National Farmers Union had passed a resolution calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open the market to higher blends of ethanol during its annual meeting in San Diego.  The resolution, which was brought forward by the South Dakota Farmers Union delegation, promotes the use of higher blended fuels, such as E30, as a way to expand the retail fuels infrastructure and support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
 
In addition to passing the resolution, the National Farmers Union filed legal comments regarding EPA’s overreach in its interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which limits ethanol content to 15 percent.  Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union, called on EPA and all government regulators to reverse statements and policies that unfairly limit the amount of ethanol in fuel and stated that both the state and national organization continue to seek greater market access for higher blended fuels.


 

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.

Tags: RVP, Biofuel, EPA, CAA

 

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 17, 2017, several Republican Senators sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, to confirm their willingness to work with Pruitt to grow the nation’s economy and support American jobs and to request that Pruitt address EPA’s volatility regulation of ethanol fuel blends.  In the letter, the Senators describe the one pound per square inch (psi) waiver that allows gasoline blends containing ten percent ethanol (E10) to be sold during the summer months despite the gasoline volatility requirements in place from June 1 to September 15 under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  The letter requests that Pruitt extend the one psi waiver to higher ethanol blends since the volatility of such blends is lower than E10.  The Senators state that without a waiver, fuels, such as E15, are prohibited from use during the summer months, which discourages retailers from installing infrastructure to distribute fuel alternatives and increases costs for consumers.

 
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 22, 2017, the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced plans to submit comments to EPA in support of its proposal to deny petitions requesting EPA initiate a rulemaking process to change the point of obligation for compliance under the RFS program.  During the press call, Frank Macchiarola, the Group Director of Downstream and Industry Operations at API, stated that changing the point of obligation would create significant uncertainty and complications in the RFS program and the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market, and add time and an administrative burden for EPA and regulated entities.  Macchiarola suggested policymakers focus on fixing the blend wall problem and setting fuel policies consistent with vehicle compatibility.  API supports Congressional efforts to repeal or reform the RFS program and encourages lower volume requirements in 2018 to address the short-term challenges facing the refining industry.  Macchiarola stated that EPA should consider the adoption of cellulosic technologies, E15 and E85 use, and the demand for E0 when establishing 2018 RFS standards.
Tags: API, EPA, RFS

 

On February 13, 2017, seven democratic Senators sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn requesting details on Carl Icahn’s role in the Trump Administration and the extent of his influence over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  On December 21, 2016, it was announced that Mr. Icahn would serve the Trump Administration as a special advisor for overhauling federal regulations.  The Senators’ letter highlights concerns over Icahn’s public statements regarding RFS obligations and his role as chairman of the board and majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises.  The Senators noted that, as of September 30, 2016, Icahn Enterprises owned an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy, which is an oil refiner required to meet the RFS obligations.  The letter requests that McGahn provide answers to a number of questions regarding Icahn, including whether:
 

■  He is a federal employee;
 
■   He has access to confidential information;
 
■  He provided financial disclosures to the Administration;
 
■  He is barred from providing advice on any regulations;
 
■  He provided advice to President Trump on any Senate-confirmed or schedule C appointees;
 
■  The Administration believes he is subject to any laws or regulations governing conflicts of interest;
 
■  He has recused himself from any decisions or discussions that may present a conflict of interest; and
 
■  He is required to divest from any of his holdings.

 

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.

Tags: Iowa, Biofuel, EPA, RFS

 
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