April 10, 2015
By Erin Voegele
The U.S. EPA has posted a notice to its website announcing that the volume requirements for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable fuel standard (RFS), along with the 2017 volume requirement for biomass-based diesel, will be finalized by Nov. 30. A portion of the new compliance schedule is the result of a proposed consent decree in litigation brought against EPA by the American Petrochemical Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
Under the proposed consent decree, the EPA said that it will propose 2015 RFS volume requirements by June 1 and finalize volume requirements for 2014 and 2015 by Nov. 30. Also under the decree, the EPA will resolve a pending waiver petition for 2014.
Outside the scope of the decree, the EPA has committed to propose RFS volume requirements for 2016 by June 1 and finalize them by Nov. 30. The agency also said it will finalize the RFS biomass-based diesel volume requirements for 2017 on the same schedule. Regarding the 2014 standard, the EPA said it will re-propose 2014 volume requirements by June 1 that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.
The consent decree relates to a lawsuit filed against the EPA by the API and AFPM on March 18 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the compliant, the oil groups allege the EPA has violated a nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to establish renewable fuels obligations for 2014 and 2015 and to approve or disapprove a petition filed by the API and AFPM to waive, in part, the 2014 RFS. That waiver petition was submitted to the EPA in August 2013.
Documents published by the EPA explain that the consent decree is not yet final. While it has been signed by the API and AFPM and lodged with the court, it has not been signed by EPA and has not been signed or entered by the court at this time. According to a notice filed by the EPA with the court, the consent decree is not final and cannot be entered by the court until the EPA administrator provides a reasonable opportunity by notice in the Federal Register for members of the public to comment in writing. Following the public comment period, if none of the comments disclose facts or considerations which indicate that the decree is inappropriate, improper, inadequate, or inconsistent with the CCA requirements, the administrator will request that the court enter the decree.
The Renewable Fuels Association has spoken out in support of the EPA rulemaking timeline. “We applaud EPA and API for reaching an agreement that will provide all stakeholders some certainty with regard to the renewable fuel standard,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “No one has benefited from the delays in setting annual renewable volume obligations; and while we are sympathetic to the difficulty EPA faces in promulgating annual targets, the statute is clear about the volumes required and the agency simply has to do a better job moving forward. This consent agreement is a good start. We are particularly pleased that the agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same timeframe even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement. More important than EPA meeting its statutory deadlines, however, is that the agency recognize the market transforming purpose of the RFS and allow the RIN mechanism to drive investment in infrastructure and compel consumer choice at the pump.”
The Adavanced Ethanol Council also supports the agreement between the EPA, API and AFPM. “The scheduling agreement between the oil industry and EPA is actually a good signal for the advanced biofuels industry because it lays out a time frame and a reasonable market expectation for resolving the regulatory uncertainty around the RFS,” said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the AEC. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress. We were encouraged by EPA’s decision late last year to pull a problematic 2014 proposal, and we are optimistic that EPA will make the necessary adjustments and put the RFS back on track going forward.”
Growth Energy said the EPA’s timeline will provide the industry with some certainty. “I am pleased to hear that the EPA has finally put a process in place to establish some certainty for biofuel producers with the recent announcement of the timeline for the proposed 2015 RVO rule by June 1st as well as the final 2014 and 2015 volume obligations by Nov. 30, 2015,” Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said. “Our producers have faced ambiguity for too long and today is welcome news that they are establishing a level of certainty with this announcement. However, far more important than timing is that that the EPA establishes a final rule that moves our industry forward, and reflects the bipartisan vision Congress intended for the RFS. Additionally, while not part of the consent decree, we are pleased to see that the EPA has committed to finalizing the 2016 RFS RVO numbers this year as well. By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers.”
The American Coalition for Ethanol is also pleased with the EPA’s newly announced timeline. “ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE. “Last year Big Oil came close to bullying EPA to completely re-write the RFS so they could escape their legal responsibility to blend E15 and flex fuels into gasoline. But thanks to comments from ACE members and other biofuel supporters, EPA wisely chose to abandon their proposal to set the 2014 RFS on the E10 blend wall. It appears EPA is going to get the RFS back on track for implementation. Our priority will continue to be to ensure EPA holds oil companies legally responsible under the RFS for making cleaner and less expensive fuel choices, such as E15 and E85, available to consumers.”
The National Biodiesel Board said it is supportive of the EPA’s announcement. “We are pleased to see the EPA make these further commitments toward ending these delays,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the NBB. “Biodiesel is the most successful EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel under the RFS to date, and the Obama Administration should be doing everything it can to promote biodiesel so we can show that Advanced Biofuels are here today, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent, creating jobs and reducing our dependence on global petroleum markets that wreak havoc on our economy. The RFS is the most successful policy we have for reducing emissions in the transportation sector, and it is working. We applaud the EPA for taking this step and look forward to working with the Administration in the coming weeks to get this program back on track.”
Read the original story here : EPA To Finalize 2014, 2015 and 2016 RFS Rules By November