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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On December 10, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will hold a virtual public hearing on its proposal for the “Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: RFS Annual Rules” signed on December 7, 2021. The virtual public hearing is scheduled for January 4, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST). If necessary, EPA will hold an additional virtual session on January 5, 2022, to accommodate the number of testifiers.
 
EPA is proposing the 2020, 2021, and 2022 renewable fuel standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. It is also proposing to:

  • Address the remand of the 2016 standard-setting rulemaking;
  • Extend certain RFS compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 compliance years; and
  • Implement several regulatory changes to the RFS program.

 

 

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

On November 26, 2021, EPA issued a proposed rule to modify certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. For small refineries only, EPA is proposing to extend the RFS compliance reporting deadline and the associated attest engagement reporting deadline for compliance year 2019. EPA is also proposing to extend the RFS compliance reporting deadline and the associated attest reporting deadline for 2020 and 2021 compliance years for all obligated parties. Lastly, EPA is also proposing to change the way that it determines future RFS compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on or prior to January 3, 2022.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[‌i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 
 
On May 25, 2021, U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Integrity Act of 2021. Aiming to provide more certainty to rural America, this legislation would require that small refineries petition for RFS hardship exemptions by June 1 of each year. According to Senator Fischer, the RFS Integrity Act of 2021 would ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Fuel Obligations (RVO) it sets every November. The legislation would also require that EPA publish the name of the refinery and volume that is exempted at the same time that the refiner receives the exemption.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 25, 2021, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Representatives Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) joined forces in a letter to urge President Biden to uphold his promise to support biofuels in the next four years. Criticizing President Biden’s efforts under the American Jobs Plan for failing to include investments in biofuels, the letter states that “advancements in biofuels can drive biofuels towards being carbon neutral or even carbon negative – something electric vehicles cannot achieve.” According to the representatives, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan focuses on investments in electric vehicles rather than supporting biofuels as a solution to reduce carbon emissions. The letter also urges President Biden to support the biofuels industry through strong Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for 2021, 2022, and beyond under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The letter concludes with the following statement: “Biofuels should not be treated as a transition fuel, but prioritized as a fuel of the future.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On May 5, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of disclosure to all obligated parties under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program that have submitted small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions and to all parties whose RFS information otherwise resides in EPA’s Moderated Transaction System (EMTS).  EPA’s action is in response to a U.S. Government of Accountability Office (GAO) request to disclose such information that has been submitted to EPA that claims to be, or is determined to be, confidential business information (CBI).  The information to be disclosed includes documents and data related to SRE petitions received by EPA since the beginning of the RFS program through the present. Such records include:

  • All materials submitted by small refineries as part of its SRE petition;
  • Any documentation sent by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to EPA summarizing DOE’s findings and score(s) associated with the petition(s) and any EPA responses to such petitions;
  • Any EPA record that addresses the subject of the exemption petition(s), including EPA analysis done in addition to DOE’s findings;
  • EPA’s final exemption decision sent to the refinery; and
  • RFS related transaction-level data contained in EMTS, including Renewable Identification Number (RIN) transactions under RFS.

These records and information will be shared with GAO no later than 16 days after the publication of the notice.  All CBI-claimed documents will be destroyed, deleted, or returned to EPA at the conclusion of GAO's review.

Tags: RFS, SRE, CBI, Biofuel, DOE

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final modifications of certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The final rule extends the RFS compliance deadline for the 2019 and 2020 compliance years and its associated deadlines for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2019 and 2020 compliance years for small refineries. The new 2019 compliance year and attest engagement report deadlines are now November 30, 2021, and June 1, 2022, respectively. The new 2020 compliance year and attest engagement report deadlines are now January 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022, respectively. EPA has also extended the deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2021 compliance year for obligated parties to September 1, 2022. The final rule became effective on March 20, 2021.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

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

EPA, on January 15, 2021, issued a proposed rule to modify certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The proposed deadline extension for the 2019 compliance year and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2019 compliance year for small refineries are as follows: November 30, 2021, and June 1, 2022, respectively. The second extension would be for the 2020 compliance year and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for obligated parties and Renewable Identification Number (RIN)-generating renewable fuel producers and importers, among other parties holding RINs. The new deadlines for these would be January 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022, respectively.

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by March 11, 2021. A virtual public hearing will take place on February 9, 2021, to discuss questions and concerns about the proposed rule.


 

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

On January 19, 2021, EPA issued a request for comment on petitions submitted in 2020 for a waiver of the RFS obligations that apply to 2019 and 2020. The petitions argue that recent events warrant EPA exercising its general waiver authority on the basis of severe economic harm. In late March 2020, a group of small refineries requested a waiver of the 2019 and 2020 RFS obligations. In April 2020, Governors of several states submitted three petitions for waivers of the nationwide volumes. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA is granted the discretion to waive the requirements of the RFS program in whole or in part if the EPA Administrator determines, after a notice and comment, that the implementation of the applicable annual volume requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region, or the United States. Comments on the aforementioned petitions are due on February 18, 2021.


 
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