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 August 30, 2019, the National Chicken Council submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concerns with the proposed required volume obligations (RVO) for 2020 combined with the recent waiver that will increase the use of ethanol-15 (E15) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Representing companies that produce and process over 95 percent of the chicken in the United States, the National Chicken Council’s concerns are related to its broiler production, which comprises the largest single user of corn not operating under RFS. In its letter, the National Chicken Council claims that under RFS since 2007, broiler producers have faced $68.5 billion in higher feed costs for the production of broiler meat.  Calling for greater efforts to create a more sustainable approach under RFS, Mike Brown’s, National Chicken Council President, concluding statements express the view that both the proposed RVOs for 2020 and the waiver allowing for E15 sales year-round are overly aggressive. These measures, according to the letter, are also overly reliant on corn-based ethanol, stating that it is likely to cause disruptions to the feed supply in the U.S.

Tags: RFS, E15

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 21, 2019, Iowa Democratic Representative Cindy Axne asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General (IG) to investigate how EPA decided to grant the exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requested by oil refiners. EPA approved 31 petitions for waivers from the 2018 requirements.  Lawmakers are not pleased at what appears to be EPA favoring the oil industry. Hence, Representative Axne’s call for an IG investigation into how EPA decided to expand the number of waivers it issued since President Trump came into office. Representative Axne held a press conference on August 21, 2019, at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, an ethanol producer in Iowa.  This is the same plant where Trump touted his action expanding sales of 15 percent ethanol.
 
According to Reuters, Trump is seeking to mollify corn farmers who are incensed over the exemptions. He personally approved EPA’s decision to go ahead with the waivers, but in a cabinet meeting, Trump told his staff to figure out a way to pacify the farmers.  Alarmingly, and according to a refinery industry source, the President also asked EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler if he could take the exemptions back; he was told he could not.
 
Citing data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), EPA stated the United States had been setting records for both ethanol production and exports. “There is zero evidence that EPA’s Congressionally mandated small refinery exemption program, which provides regulatory relief to small refineries around the country, has had any negative impact on domestic corn ethanol producers,” EPA said in a statement. Nonetheless, POET, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, has idled an Indiana plant due to the waivers. “Our industry invested billions of dollars based on the belief that oil could not restrict access to the market and EPA would stand behind the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the oil industry is manipulating the EPA and is now using the RFS to destroy demand for biofuels.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On July 26, 2019, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced that he is working with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on the Restore Environmental Sustainability to Our Renewable Energy (RESTORE) Act. In an effort to end what Toomey describes as an “egregious form of corporate welfare that hurts the environment and drives up the cost of everything,” the RESTORE Act would abolish the corn ethanol mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Toomey further argues that, because the RFS forces drivers to purchase billions of gallons of corn ethanol annually, it also harms the environment and causes prices to rise, not only of gasoline, but also of damaged engines and groceries. Calling for a phaseout of the ethanol mandate, the RESTORE Act focuses on transitioning to advanced, lower carbon fuels for the country’s transportation needs.
 
The RESTORE Act is not Toomey’s and Feinstein’s first attempt to abolish the corn ethanol mandate. In 2015, Feinstein and Toomey offered an amendment to the Keystone pipeline bill that would have repealed the corn ethanol mandate under RFS: the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015. This Feinstein-Toomey amendment suggested the same modifications the RESTORE Act now proposes and the language used to describe the need for these changes is similar in both Toomey’s July 2019 and Feinstein’s 2015 announcements. Using the exact same arguments that were used in 2015, the RESTORE Act demonstrates Toomey and Feinstein’s determination to abolish the corn ethanol mandate.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On July 31, 2019, EPA held a public hearing in Ypsilanti, MI, to obtain stakeholders’ input on its proposed rule to set Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVO) and 2021 biomass-based diesel volume. Among the various stakeholders providing oral statements to EPA were representatives from Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Hero BX, and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). Most of the oral comments provided were in opposition to the proposed rule. Industry representatives highly critized the proposed rule, stating that the RVOs proposed were unreasonable and would negatively impact economic growth through demand destruction and job losses. Many stakeholders also expressed disappointment that, in its proposed rule, EPA failed to account for approved Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) granted. In agreement with other stakeholders’ comments, Growth Energy’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Chris Bliley, stated that progress made thus far under the RFS Program is being threatened by this proposal. Bliley also added that too many exemptions have been granted in secrecy by EPA. Criticism was also made regarding compliance costs and its negative impact on jobs should this rule be approved. Tim Keaveney, Executive Vice President of Business Development at Hero BX, urged EPA to raise the RVOs for biodiesel to enable further industry growth. Overall, there seemed to be a general agreement that the proposed rule betrays President Trump’s commitment to maintaining the RFS Program.

Tags: EPA, RVO, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 5, 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposed rule to set the minimum amount of renewable fuels that must be supplied to the market in 2020, as well as the biomass-based diesel volume standard for 2021 under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program. The notice means that EPA is on target to publish the final RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) on time. In Wheeler’s announcement, he highlights that its timeliness contrasts with the Obama Administration’s failure to release RVOs by the date Congress set forth. Despite Wheeler’s timeliness, however, EPA has been highly criticized by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and politicians who have demonstrated opposition to the set RVOs. Details on the proposed RVOs for 2020 can be found here.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 27, 2019, U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) submitted a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue asking him to stop threatening energy jobs in Louisiana. In his letter to Secretary Purdue, Senator Kennedy outlines concerns related to Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) issued by EPA under the RFS program. Of particular concern to Senator Kennedy are reports that Secretary Purdue continues to attempt to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers, despite clear measures in the Clean Air Act that prohibit him to do so. Senator Kennedy states that Secretary Purdue’s “efforts in this matter not only disregard congressional intent of the law, bur also threaten thousands of jobs in Louisiana and across the country.” While emphasizing consistency to statutory requirements, Senator Kennedy also highlights his opposition to EPA’s proposal to increase the total blending requirement in the reset rule or 2020 RVO rule. Arguing that increases of the blending requirements or changes to SRE would affect Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) prices, and therefore, jobs, Senator Kennedy ends the letter by threatening to block Secretary Purdue’s three USDA nominees awaiting confirmation before the Senate.

Tags: USDA, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 28, 2019, 13 U.S. Senators signed a letter to President Donald J. Trump expressing concerns about media reports that USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue is attempting to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers under RFS. Similar to the letter submitted to Purdue himself by Senator Kennedy, the 13 Senators express opposition to Secretary Purdue’s involvement in the SRE waivers decision-making process. Also referencing the Clean Air Act and its statutory requirements, the letter urges President Trump to prohibit Secretary Purdue from influencing or interfering with decisions concerning SRE by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The view expressed in the letter is that “any decisions to further delay, reduce, or deny hardship relief to small refineries, or reallocate the obligations of small refineries to other refineries,” would be the result of Secretary Purdue’s impermissible interference. The letter notes that federal courts would likely view any of the outlined attempts in the same way.

Tags: USDA, RFS, CAA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 20, 2019, Reuters reported that President Trump directed members of his Cabinet to review EPA’s expanded use of waivers exempting small refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This decision came after Trump traveled to the Midwest to promote the Administration’s decision to lift a ban on summer sales of E15 and farmers warned that increases in smaller refinery exemptions functionally negated the expected benefits of E15 sales. RFS has become increasingly controversial as environmental activists argue that the government should phase out incentives for first generation biofuels derived from food biomass like corn ethanol in favor of second and third generation biofuels that use non-food waste and algae to produce biofuels. For now, EPA has delayed action on 39 pending small refinery waivers from 2018, and has said in a statement that the “EPA will continue to work with the White House, USDA, members of Congress and other stakeholders to ensure the Renewable Fuel Standard’s continued stability.”

Tags: RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 14, 2019, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Integrity Act of 2019. This Act aims at increasing transparency and predictability to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) small refinery exemption process under the RFS program. Requiring small refineries to petition for exemptions by June 1 of each year, according to the two leaders, this legislation would hold EPA accountable for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) it sets every November. It is known that, since 2018, many complaints have been made regarding President Trump’s EPA liberally providing exemptions to refineries with no back-up information or congressional oversight. This Act attempts to address this issue by making key information associated with exemptions made publicly available. Additionally, if passed, the Act would require EPA to report to Congress on the methodology it uses when granting these small refinery exemptions.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to the U.S. Senate on the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) program effects on gas prices and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Titled Renewable Fuel Standard: Information on Likely Program Effects on Gasoline Prices and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the report suggests that increases in gas prices outside of the Midwest (which have now diminished) were associated with the nationwide RFS, and that variations in gas prices likely depended on state-by-state transport and storage of ethanol costs. In addition, price increases occurred in states that did not have the initial infrastructure to blend and store ethanol. Regarding GHG emissions, the report states that RFS has had a limited effect, if any. GAO provided two reasons for this limited effect: (1) RFS relies on conventional corn-starch ethanol, which has smaller potential to reduce GHG emissions; and (2) most corn-starch ethanol has been produced in plants that are exempt from emission reduction requirements. In addition, GAO reports concerns that RFS will not meet the GHG emissions reduction goals that it envisioned by 2020. Lastly, GAO reports that the renewable identification numbers (RIN) had a small effect on prices. EPA analysis identified areas of concern within RINs, which included possible fraud in the market, price volatility, and concerns about the impact they have on small refiners.

Tags: RFS, GHG

 
 1 2 3 >  Last ›