Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed rule for the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS2”) volume obligations. Every year the EPA is required to determine and publish the annual volume requirements for each class of renewable fuel that obligated parties will have to comply with for the upcoming year under the RFS2 program. The volumes required under the proposed rule for 2013 are as follows (generally in ethanol equivalent volume): 14 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, 1.28 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel (actual volume), 2.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuel, and 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuel. As always the categories are nested and the advanced biofuel volume includes the volumes set for the cellulosic and biomass-based diesel categories. The renewable fuel category accounts for all renewable fuel including traditional corn starch ethanol.
Three of the four categories are consistent with the volumes set forth by statute. The volume for cellulosic biofuel, however, is set by this rule because it must be the lesser of the statutory volume and EPA’s projection of industry production for any given year. As with each ruling prior to this one under the program, EPA set a dramatically lower cellulosic biofuel volume than the statutory volume based on its assessment of the industry’s status. Rather than 1 billion gallons as would otherwise be required by statute, EPA is requiring obligated parties to account for 14 million gallons of cellulosic fuel. Despite the dramatic reduction from the statutory requirement, this is significant because it is an increase over the 2012 standard of 10.45 million gallons that has been the subject of considerable recent controversy.
Just a few days earlier, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that EPA impermissibly set the 2012 standard with an eye toward promoting industry growth when, by statute, the agency should have simply made an accurate projection of what the industry could produce in the given year. While petitioners in that case asserted that the EPA volume for cellulosic ethanol should be equivalent to that which the Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) projects, the court instead determined that EPA’s projected volume should be simply based on the EIA projections.
In developing the 2013 requirement for cellulosic ethanol, the EPA relied on EIA estimates but also its analysis of more than 100 biofuel production facilities. The proposed rule includes a detailed analysis of all of the plants currently registered with EPA and able to produce cellulosic RINs. Of those 6 plants, it assumes two (INEOS Bio and KiOR) will be generating cellulosic biofuel RINs in 2013 in an amount equal to 14 million gallons of ethanol. The EIA estimate for 2013 is 13.1 million gallons of ethanol – which is also nearly exclusively based on production from those two plants.
Although the EPA also has authority to reduce the advanced biofuel category based on its decision to reduce the cellulosic biofuel category, the agency decided to keep the broader category at the statutory volume based on its projections of other domestic advanced renewable fuels as well as the ability to import sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. Comments on the proposed rule must be received no later than 45 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is exercising its authority and enforcing the requirements of the Clean Air Act’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) program. The EPA issued twenty-four notices of violation on November 7, 2011, to petroleum refiners, importers and exporters of renewable fuel.
Following a filing last month of criminal charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) against an individual, Rodney R. Hailey, the EPA issued civil notices of violations (NOVs) to the entities that relied upon the allegedly invalid Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated by Mr. Hailey. The companies involved are obligated parties under the RFS program and thereby, subject to Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) designed to demonstrate compliance with the renewable fuel standards set by Congress -- 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Stoel Rives issued a legal update on these matters, among the first enforcement actions initiated by the EPA under the RFS2 requirements. The entire update can be read here.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has released a series of proposed rules relating to the Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS”). Originally enacted by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded by the Energy Independence Act of 2007, the RFS represents the country’s most comprehensive and effective policy in the energy security and greenhouse gas (“GHG”) sectors. The current RFS, often referred to as RFS2, contains four categories of fuel made from renewable biomass. EPA has the authority to set the mandate levels for these renewable fuels. U.S. petroleum refiners and importers are obligated parties under the program and must prove compliance by purchasing a sufficient quantity of these fuels. The EPA proposed an overall standard for 2012 for renewable fuel of 9.21% or 15.2 billion gallons of fuel and also proposed significant regulatory changes to the program.
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EPA has completed the roll out of the complex RFS2 program by setting renewable fuel quantity requirements for 2011. EPA severely curtailed the cellulosic biofuels standard from 250 million gallons to six million gallons based on limited industry growth. Looking forward to 2012, however, the agency identified a potential surge to 300 million gallons of production. EPA held firm on both the overall renewable fuel standard at 14 billion gallons and advanced biofuels at 1.35 billion gallons despite the cellulosic cut. Other contentious RFS2 issues including retroactive Renewable Identification Numbers (“RINs”) and foreign feedstock were also resolved.
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The EPA has issued proposed RFS2 rules for 2011 that provide some indications that the agency is dedicated to jump starting the advanced biofuels industry. Most notably, the EPA held fast to an overall mandate of 13.95 billion gallons of renewable fuel. While the agency intends to deviate downward on cellululosic biofuels with a cut of 90% or more anticipated, the proposed rule maintains the overall Advanced biofuel mandate at 1.35 billion gallons and the Biomass-based diesel requirement at 800 million gallons. Thus the agency is paying significant attention to the existing capacity of the biodiesel industry despite the lack of approval for the blender's credit six months into the year. Biofuel supporters hope that this policy gap will be addressed shortly or that RIN values will continue to increase for Biomass based diesel.
The proposed rule contains two other notable components: tentative but retroactive RIN credit for canola, sorghum, pulpwood and palm oil biofuel producers; and a petition process for foreign countries to avoid the onerous feedstock obligations that now apply in favor of the aggregate approach available within the US. The referenced feedstocks have been under consideration by EPA for Life Cycle Analysis since prior to the original RFS2 Final Rule was released but the work has still not been completed. The severe challenge for this group of biofuel producers is that EPA has previously indicated that RIN generation would trigger only when the pathway was certified. EPA's proposed new flexibility is an improvement but still falls short of providing full RIN value for these producers due to the lag time and uncertainty associated with the approach. The proposed petition process for foreign countries is an apparent attempt to level the playing field for foreign producers who now must trace and certify feedstocks such as soy and corn in a manner not required within the US.
The rules will be published in the Federal Register shortly and the public comment period will likely run to approximately August 13th.
A quick follow up on my post last month regarding my colleague Graham Noyes’ white paper on the EPA’s sweeping revision of the federal Advanced Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). On April 20, Graham and his co-author Clayton McMartin will participate in a live Q&A webinar with Biofuels Journal publisher Myke Feinman on the new RFS2. Topics will include:
• The Four Categories of Fuel under RFS2
• Why All Producers Must Register Their Facilities
• What RINs will be Reinstated, Why, How, and When
• Lifecycle Analysis (GHG) and the Impact on Biofuel Markets
• Integration of RFS1 and RFS2
• Sweeping Changes in the RIN Program with RFS2
• Violations and Penalties
• The Seven Types of RINs
• The "Nesting" of Standards and the Potential Impact on Business
• EPA's New Role with the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS)
Registration and participation in the webinar is FREE. Click here to register for the advanced renewable fuel standard (RFS2) webinar with Biofuels Journal.
My colleague Graham Noyes and Clayton McMartin of Clean Fuels Clearinghouse recently published a white paper on the massive and staggeringly complex revision of the federal Advanced Fuel Standard (RFS) issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on February 3, 2010. Graham and Clayton describe how this second generation renewable fuel initiative (RFS2) will bring industry and government together in ways never before experienced by the fuels industry.
With a view to helping market participants develop comprehensive cost/benefit and compliance strategies, Graham and Clayton structure their discussion according to the following key topics:
- Legal background and new statutory requirements of RFS2;
- Compliance implications of updates to the Renewable Identification Numbers (“RINS”) process; and
- Issues important to particular market participants, including producer obligations, new fuel pathways, importer issues and RIN trading economics.