On April 29, 2014, in a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld EPA's view in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation L.P., U.S. Nos. 12-1182 and 12-1183. The opinion is available online.
The decision reverses a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, holding that EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) exceeded EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CSAPR -- issued under the Obama Administration and which strengthened a similar rule issued in 2005 by the Bush Administration -- requires 28 upwind states to reduce power plant emissions to help downwind states achieve national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).
The Supreme Court held that the EPA permissibly created the CSAPR, in part considering cost effectiveness. As such, it is within EPA's authority under the CAA to include within CSAPR its "Good Neighbor" provision requiring upwind states to help downwind states meet NAAQS and imposition of federal implementation plans (FIP) "after EPA has quantified the state's interstate pollution obligation." More information on the case and the Supreme Court's holding is available online.
On April 22, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed off on a Direct Final Rule requiring petroleum refiners and importers to blend 810,185 gallons of cellulosic fuels into the fuel supply in 2013 in response to petitions for reconsideration of the Final Rule from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). The pre-publication version of the Direct Final Rule is available online. Petitioners successfully argued that cellulosic fuel production was well below EPA's projections. Previously, EPA had mandated that the petroleum industry blend six million gallons of cellulosic fuels into the fuel supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2013. EPA granted the motion for reconsideration because one of the two companies that EPA expected to produce cellulosic biofuel in 2013 announced shortly after EPA signed the final rule that it intended to produce significantly lower volumes of cellulosic biofuel in 2013 that it had reported to EPA. The rule will be effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards promote the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using novel green chemistry. These prestigious annual awards recognize chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use. Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) member Elevance Renewable Sciences was a Presidential Green Chemistry Award Winner in 2012. While applications for 2014 are due on April 30, 2014, it is not too soon to begin thinking and preparing for a 2015 submission. EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute® and other members of the chemical community, including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies.
Throughout the 18 years of the awards program, EPA has presented awards to 93 winners. Since its inception in 1996 through 2012, EPA has received 1,490 nominations. By recognizing groundbreaking scientific solutions to real-world environmental problems, the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge has significantly reduced the hazards associated with designing, manufacturing, and using chemicals.
According to EPA, through 2013, 93 winning technologies have made billions of pounds of green chemistry progress, including:
* 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents eliminated each year -- enough to fill almost 3,800 railroad tank cars or a train nearly 47 miles long.
* 21 billion gallons of water saved each year -- the amount used by 820,000 people annually.
* 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents released to air eliminated each year -- equal to taking 810,000 automobiles off the road.
More information is available online.
EPA is vigorously questioning results of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study that concludes ethanol produced from crop residues such as corn stover can have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional gasoline, arguing that the findings are based on an "extremely unlikely scenario" of unsubstantiated agricultural practices. RFA is also highly critical of the new study, claiming its "methodology is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect." RFA made available a useful fact sheet that is available online.
The DOE-funded study was published on April 20, 2014, in Nature Climate Change. The study claims to demonstrate that ethanol produced from corn stover and other crop residues does not meet EPA's criteria for achieving a 60 percent GHG emission reduction compared to gasoline in order for the fuels to qualify under the RFS. The study could raise questions over EPA's ability to raise the cellulosic target in the final version of the 2014 RFS, especially if the fuel's GHGs disqualify them under the program.
EPA is also refuting the study as hypothetical, and lacking a firm basis in current agriculture practices. An EPA spokeswoman reportedly stated the "paper is based on a hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested; an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices." More information is available online.
On April 10, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its strategic plan through 2018. A copy of the plan is available online. It includes statements by EPA reinforcing its commitment to enhancing implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the next four years.
In the 99-page document, EPA reiterates its position supporting enhancing TSCA. To that end, EPA stresses that "[p]otential legislative action to reauthorize TSCA is both a key external factor and a key emerging issue. Consistent with the Administration's essential principles, EPA's authority under TSCA should be modernized and strengthened to increase confidence that chemicals used in commerce are safe and do not endanger public health and welfare."
In its strategic plan, EPA also states that it intends to continue to work to "streamline" the implementation of the federal RFS, "including the annual standard-setting process and new fuel pathway approvals." The Agency also asserts that it "will also strengthen its oversight of industry compliance with RFS standards and core fuels and fuels additive registration mandates through a voluntary third-party quality assurance program to verify that renewable identification numbers (RINs) have been validly generated. In addition, proposed modifications to the exporter provisions of the RFS program will help to ensure that an appropriate number and type of RINs are retired whenever renewable fuel is exported."
On March 28, 2014, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Peter Welch (D-VT) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy with targeted questions related to the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The four Members of Congress all believe the RFS is not working in its current form. Last fall, they introduced H.R. 1462, the "RFS Reform Act," which eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements, limits the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at ten percent, and requires EPA to set accurately the annual cellulosic renewable volume obligations (RVO) at actual production levels.
In their letter, which followed a recent meeting with Administrator McCarthy, the Representatives reiterated their position that the RFS is not working given current market conditions. They also asked six questions to inquire about EPA's ability and willingness to reduce annual RVOs. A copy of the letter is available online.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will take approximately the next six months to evaluate and improve the petition process for new fuel pathways under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Every producer that wants their renewable fuel to qualify under the RFS must have its fuel pathway, including feedstock and technology process, approved by EPA. EPA intends to make the process more efficient and transparent, and thereby reduce the amount of time it takes to make determinations on new fuel pathway petitions. The Agency also intends to develop and issue improved guidance for petitioners, and to have a more automated review process for petitions using previously approved feedstocks and well known production process technologies.
EPA suggests that parties intending to submit new fuel pathway petitions wait to do so until after the Agency issues its new guidance. EPA will continue to review petitions currently under review, but will prioritize them based on the following criteria:
* Ability to contribute to the cellulosic biofuel mandate.
* Potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a per gallon basis, for example by using feedstocks that likely do not have significant indirect land use change emissions (such as non-food feedstocks).
* Ability to contribute to near-term increases in renewable fuel use. This criterion would include, for example, consideration of the ability of the intended biofuel product to be readily incorporated into the existing fuel distribution network.
This review comes after years of criticism that the petition process for new fuel pathway approvals under the RFS takes too long and impedes progress of projects that could produce fuels that meet the annual RFS volumetric requirements. Some companies have been waiting for over two years for EPA's determination on their petitions.
On March 12, 2014, Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), shared with his colleagues a vision plan that was developed to guide OCSPP's work over the next several years. The document, entitled Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Envisioning Accomplishments in 2017, outlines several actions that will be taken by OCSPP regarding pesticide registration, existing chemicals, the EDSP, creating a whole new Design for the Environment (DfE), and employing green solutions. Actions that will be taken in implementing OCSPP's vision are also outlined. Of particular note to biobased chemical producers and stakeholders, EPA "[w]ill have begun to look at additional elements of a chemical's life-cycle to factor into sustainability evaluations." This is yet another expression of commitment by EPA to ensuring sustainability is a component of all decisions at EPA. The document is available online.
On March 3, 2014, EPA released its final rule on "Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" (the "Tier 3 rule"). A copy of the 1069-page Tier 3 rule is available online. A copy of EPA's five-page fact sheet on "EPA Sets Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" is available online.
The Tier 3 rule is designed to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. Beginning in 2017, the Tier 3 rule will set new vehicle emissions standards and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline. It will treat the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. The final Tier 3 rule is very similar to the proposed version of the rule, although the final Tier 3 rule sets the ethanol content for emissions test gasoline at ten percent (E10) instead of at 15 percent (E15) as proposed.
The final Tier 3 rule is a part of the Obama Administration's efforts to combat the harmful impacts of climate change. It is expected to reduce several tons of harmful GHG emissions by 2030.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has awarded more than $3 million in funding to four research institutions to study how chemicals behave when they come into contact with biological systems. The projects will focus on developing better models that predict the connection between exposures to chemicals and the chain of events that lead to an unwanted health effect. The results are expected to assist EPA in its mission to protect human health and the environment, to inform and impact EPA's chemical safety research, and to develop solutions for more sustainable chemicals and use computational science to understand the relationship between chemical exposures and health outcomes. A copy of EPA's press release is available online.