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 July 24, 2018, Andrew Wheeler, newly appointed Acting Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held a briefing that outlined his plans for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  He plans on following Scott Pruitt’s work overhauling the policy, including counting ethanol exports toward annual biofuels quotas and bringing corn and oil groups together to overhaul the RFS system.  Wheeler also signed a final notice approving a variety of pathways for renewable fuel derived from sorghum, including biofuel and biodiesel.  The newly approved pathways meet greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction requirements to generate credits or Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels under the RFS program.

Tags: Wheeler, EPA, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 20, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit) ruled that EPA must reconsider its denial of Ergon-West Virginia, Inc.’s (Ergon) application for a small refinery waiver under the RFS.  The Fourth Circuit stated that EPA relied on an “error-riddled” analysis when it denied the exemption.  Ergon is a small refinery based in West Virginia (with a daily production of 23,500 barrels) that produces primarily diesel which is not easily blended and sold in the local market.  The number of small refinery hardship waivers has jumped in recent years, with 48 waivers granted in 2016 and 2017, prompting outcry from the biofuel industry that the increased waivers undercut the RFS program.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 18, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a Public Hearing for Proposed Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) for 2019 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2020.  The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) testified at this meeting that EPA should set the 2020 Biomass-based Diesel volume at 2.8 billion gallons, stating that it aligns with the goals that Congress set for the RFS program, the volume is achievable in 2020, and that it will better fulfill the promise of the RFS program.  These statements come on the heels of a July 12, 2018, request by the Trump administration that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit throw out a lawsuit over previous small refiner hardship exemption waivers that EPA had granted.  Government lawyers argued that the lawsuit did not challenge a “final” agency action, so individual exemptions must be challenged in local courts.  EPA’s small refinery hardship exemptions have doubled in 2016 and 2017 when compared with previous years, with NBB estimating a decreased demand of 300 million gallons for biodiesel.  NBB argued that increasing the RFS for 2019 and 2020 is needed to reduce the uncertainty that has been caused by issuing the small refinery hardship exemptions.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was holding a public hearing for the proposed rule “Renewable Fuel Standard Program:  Standards for 2019 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2020” on July 18, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  83 Fed. Reg. 31098.  The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 10, 2018.  83 Fed. Reg. 32024.   The notice states that the public hearing will provide interested parties the “opportunity to present data, views, or arguments concerning the [proposed rule],” and “EPA may ask clarifying questions during the oral presentations but will not respond to the presentations.”  Parties wishing to testify at the hearing should notify Julia MacAllister at (734) 214-4131 or via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by July 13, 2018.  EPA will be posting a complete set of documents related to the proposal for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0167.  Comments on the Proposed Rule are due by August 17, 2018.  More information on the proposed rule is available in our blog item “EPA Releases Proposed Rule Setting 2019 RFS Requirements.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 26, 2018, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed a proposed rule that includes 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel, as well as 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVO) for biomass-based diesel.
 




These blend levels increase requirements from 2018 but are still lower than the statutory levels set by Congress under the RFS. The levels, along with the fact that the proposed rule does not address the reduction in price that Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) have suffered as a result of EPA’s increased use of small refiner hardship waivers, have resulted in criticism of the rule by biofuel groups. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Industrial & Environmental Section released a statement regarding the proposed rule, stating:
 
We welcome EPA’s decision to raise the advanced and cellulosic biofuel volumes in its proposal, which will help propel the industry forward in 2019. However, the advanced biofuels industry is still suffering the effects of the Agency’s decision to arbitrarily limit growth for low carbon biofuels in 2018, by setting a backward looking RFS requirement. The 2019 volumes should be higher, to correct from last year and also spur growth for the coming year.

EPA’s decision to forgo reallocation of gallons displaced from small refinery waivers at the behest of the petroleum industry is disappointing. In order to ensure a favorable and supportive investment climate for advanced and cellulosic biofuel producers, EPA must reallocate the gallons from the small refinery waivers already issued and into the future.

A comment period will start following publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register and comments will be due by August 17, 2018. Comments can be filed online at www.regulations.gov under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0167. EPA plans to schedule a public hearing on the proposed rule.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 4, 2018, several biofuel and agricultural groups, including the Renewable Fuels Association, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), and the National Biodiesel Board, among others, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations.  The ACE announcement states that the petition asks EPA to “change its regulations to account for lost volumes of renewable fuel resulting from the unprecedented number of retroactive small refinery exemptions from [RFS] obligations recently granted by EPA.”  The petition states that Section 211(o)(2)(a)(i) of the Clean Air Act “requires EPA to ensure that the annual required volumes of renewable fuel are introduced into the nation’s transportation fuel supply,” and that EPA’s “suddenly reversing its prior policy and granting retroactive exemptions to so many small refineries without adjusting its Annual Standard Equations to account for the resulting lost volumes,” means that EPA is “failing to meet its statutory obligation to ‘ensure’ that transportation fuels in the United States contain the applicable volumes of renewable fuel.”  The petition requests EPA to (1) convene a proceeding to reconsider the annual standard equations in 40 C.F.R. § 80.1405(c); and (2) convene a proceeding to reconsider its final action entitled “Periodic Reviews for the Renewable Fuel Standard Program” (82 Fed. Reg. 58364 (Dec. 12, 2017)).

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 8, 2018, petitioners in the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) case Coffeyville Resources Refining, et al. v. EPA filed their final briefs in the case challenging EPA’s final rule that established:  (1) the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel (BBD), advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that apply to all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in the year 2017; and (2) the applicable volume of BBD for 2018.  81 Fed. Reg. 89746 (Dec. 12, 2016).  Final briefs were filed by petitioners Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing, LLC, et al. and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).  The lengthy briefs reiterate the petitioners’ arguments that EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in relying on incomplete and flawed information and methodology when setting the cellulosic biofuel requirements and other 2017 obligations, and that EPA violated 42 U.S.C. § 7545(o)(2)(B)(ii) when it set the 2018 BBD volume based on factors that are not among those Congress instructed the Agency to consider, including the 2018 advanced-biofuel volume.  Respondent EPA and intervenors for EPA also filed final briefs.  EPA argued that its use of the cellulosic waiver was reasonable and reasonably used and applied; the D.C. Circuit has previously upheld its cellulosic biofuel projection methodology; and it properly assessed and set the BBD volumes for 2018.  Oral argument in this case has not yet been scheduled.  All of the briefs are available on Inside EPA’s website (subscription required).

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a proposed renewable fuel standard (RFS) biofuel volumes rule for 2019 to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for pre-publication review.  The proposed rule addresses 2019 renewable blending obligations for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total biofuel, with a proposed 2020 percentage standard for biomass-based diesel. The 2019 blending requirement for biomass-based diesel is 2.1 billion gallons and was included in a final rule from 2017.

Tags: EPA, RFS, OMB

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 8, 2018, President Trump met with a group of Republican Senators and told them that he is considering allowing exported ethanol to count toward the volumes mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  During this meeting, Mr. Trump also reiterated support for expanding sales of E15, and withdrew his verbal proposal to cap the price of RINs, which had been widely criticized by the ethanol industry. These announcements came after increasing concern about the future stability of the RFS after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted over two dozen hardship waivers to small refineries for 2017, a drastic increase from EPA’s prior practice of granting between six to eight hardship waivers annually.
 
The ethanol industry reacted favorably to some of these proposals, with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), releasing a statement thanking President Trump for rejecting the RIN cap and for his support of year round sales of E15. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, stated:  “Ensuring that E15 can be sold year round in states and regions where it is already approved will give advanced and cellulosic ethanol more opportunity to compete in the market in coming years. E15 reduces the price of gasoline by 5 to 15 cents per gallon, and it lowers tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions all year round. . . . BIO and its members continue to oppose unnecessary changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA has already provided unwarranted waivers to oil refiners that are destroying demand for all biofuels and undercutting industry investments. We thank Senators Grassley and Ernst for standing with us in opposition to the damaging proposal for a cap on RIN prices.” Mr. Trump’s proposal to allow RINs from exported ethanol to count towards mandated volumes under the RFS was greeted with more caution, with Erickson stating: “We remain concerned about the impact counting RINs from exported renewable fuels would have on the development of advanced biofuels and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure the RFS continues to promote production and use of homegrown biofuels.” Kevin Skunes, President of the National Corn Growers Association, was also distrustful of this proposal, stating:  “Offering RIN credits, which are supposed to be derived from a domestic renewable fuel use, for ethanol exports would threaten trade markets and impact corn farmers’ economic livelihoods.”

Tags: RFS, E15, RIN

 
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