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 March 8, 2018, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced companion legislation (S. 2519, H.R. 5212) in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively, to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The Growing Renewable Energy through Existing and New Environmentally Responsible (GREENER) Fuels Act aims to:

  • Phase out the corn ethanol mandate and immediately reduce the amount of ethanol in fuel by as much as one billion gallons by capping the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 9.7 percent;
  • Help farmers return cornfields to pasture and wildlife habitat through a ten cents per renewable identification number (RIN) fee to fund a new private land protection and restoration fund in the U.S. Treasury; and
  • Extend the cellulosic next generation biofuel mandate until two billion gallons of annual production is achieved or 2037, whichever is soonest, and improve the way the mandate is implemented to produce liquid transportation fuels that dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ​ 

According to Representative Welch, the “legislation reforms the mandate to dramatically reduce its environmental impact and to support the continued growth of advanced biofuels.”

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On December 27, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to approve new fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  Specifically, EPA is proposing to amend RFS regulations to define the term “distillers sorghum oil” and to add approved pathways from the production of biodiesel and heating oil from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process.  Distillers sorghum oil is grain sorghum oil extracted at any point downstream from sorghum grinding at dry mill ethanol plants. 
 
The proposed rule outlines EPA’s analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with certain biofuels produced from distiller sorghum oil.  Based on its assessment, EPA determined that using distillers sorghum oil as feedstock results in no significant agricultural sector GHG emissions, and that biodiesel and heating oil produced from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and LPG produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process, would meet the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the RFS program.  Comments on the analysis are due by January 26, 2018.
 
In addition to EPA approval of the new pathway, producers may wish to confirm that the final sorghum-based product and all intermediates are listed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory or covered by an exemption prior to commercialization.  While naturally occurring substances are automatically added to the TSCA Inventory, the TSCA “naturally occurring exemption” is very narrow.  Specifically, a naturally occurring substance includes “any chemical substance which is naturally occurring and:  (1) [w]hich is (i) unprocessed or (ii) processed only by manual, mechanical, or gravitational means; by dissolution in water; by flotation; or by heating solely to remove water; or (2) [w]hich is extracted from air by any means.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On December 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program:  Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019 final rule.  This final rule sets the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019.  As reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post EPA Issues Final 2018 RFS Requirements, the final volume requirements are:

  • Cellulosic biofuel, from 311 million gallons in 2017 to 288 million gallons in 2018;
  • Advanced biofuel, from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 4.29 billion gallons in 2018;
  • Renewable fuel, from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 19.29 billion gallons in 2018; and
  • Biomass-based diesel, 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 and 2019.

​​ These final volumes change the percentage standards to 0.159 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.37 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.67 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel.  This final rule becomes effective on February 12, 2018.
 
Additionally, EPA announced the availability of its “Periodic Reviews for the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.”  Pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA must conduct periodic reviews of certain aspects of the RFS program.  In the report, EPA describes its interpretation of the statutory requirement to conduct periodic reviews, and prior actions that EPA has taken to fulfill its obligations to conduct such reviews.

Tags: EPA, RFS

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On December 8, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register regarding its plans to submit an information collection request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on recordkeeping and reporting for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  The notices states that the ICR aims to streamline and update estimates related to the RFS program and consolidate all RFS estimates into one, consistent, and easy-to-understand format.
 
EPA is seeking public comment and information to enable it to: 

  • Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  • Evaluate the accuracy of EPA’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
​​According to the notice, EPA intends to amend the ICR based on the comments received.  More information regarding the ICR is available in the EPA docket.  Comments are due by February 6, 2018
Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 30, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final 2018 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel.  A pre-publication of the final rule is available now.  The final rule sets the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019.  The proposed volume requirements are:

  • Cellulosic biofuel, from 311 million gallons in 2017 to 288 million gallons in 2018;
  • Advanced biofuel, from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 4.29 billion gallons in 2018;
  • Renewable fuel, from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 19.29 billion gallons in 2018; and
  • Biomass-based diesel, 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 and 2019.​

The cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel volumes increased slightly from the values proposed in July 2017, as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post EPA Releases Proposed 2018 RFS Volume Requirements.  These final volumes change the percentage standards to 0.159 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.37 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.67 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel.  This final rule becomes effective on 60 days after publication in the Federal Register

Tags: EPA, Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 30, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing its decision to deny several petitions requesting that EPA initiate a rulemaking to change the point of obligation for compliance under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  Under the RFS program, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel fuel are identified as “obligated parties” responsible for compliance with the RFS annual standards.  In 2016, EPA received several petitions requesting a revision of the definition of “obligated party,” stating that such a change would align compliance responsibilities with the parties best positioned to make decisions on how much renewable fuel is blended into the transportation fuel supply in the United States.  As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post, “EPA Announces Opportunity To Comment On Changing The RFS Point Of Obligation,” EPA requested public comment on the petitions and the Agency’s proposed denial of the requests.  In reviewing the petitions and public comments, EPA stated that its primary consideration was whether or not a change in the point of obligation would improve the effectiveness of the program to achieve Congress’s goals.  According to the notice, EPA determined that such a change would not improve the efficiency of the program, but would unnecessarily increase the complexity of the program and undermine the success of the RFS program.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 31, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its final rule to set the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018 and 2019 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA must issue a final rule to set standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel by November 30, 2017.  Typically, OMB review is the last step before the final rule is published in the Federal Register and takes 30 days. Timely issuance of the final volume requirements is critical for preventing uncertainty in the biofuel industry. In previous years, delays in the establishment of volume requirements resulted in a decrease in production and investments in the biofuel industry.

  • 238 million gallons for cellulosic biofuel in 2018, down from 311 million gallons in 2017; 
  • 4.24 billion gallons for advanced biofuel in 2018, down from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017;
  • 19.24 billion gallons for renewable fuel in 2018, down from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017; and
  • 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019.
Many in the biofuels industry were concerned with the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel, compared to previous years.  In an October 19, 2017, letter to Republican Senators, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated that the final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  More information on the proposed requirements is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post, “EPA Publishes Proposed 2018 RFS Requirements.”
Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) to confirm his commitment to support the spirit and the letter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, Pruitt stated that, following a detailed analysis, numerous stakeholder meetings, and review of public comments, it was determined that EPA would not grant the petition to move the point of obligation to blenders.  Additionally, EPA intends to issue a final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rulemaking by the statutory deadline of November 30, 2017.  While the rulemaking process is ongoing, Pruitt indicated that the final RVO amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  Finally, Pruitt highlighted EPA’s willingness to work with Congress on a nationwide Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for E15.  Senators Ernst, Grassley, Thune, and Fischer each released statements to confirm their commitment to working collaboratively with EPA on these issues.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Senate

 
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