EPA unveils improved RFS pathway petition process

By Erin Voegele | October 08, 2014

The U.S. EPA has posted a notice to its website announcing it has taken action to improve and streamline the pathway petition process under the renewable fuels standard (RFS).

In March, the agency issued a program notice indicating it would take approximately six months to improve the petition process for new biofuel pathways outlined in RFS regulations. According to the EPA, it has now completed several of those steps outlined in March announcement.

According to the EPA, it has undertaken a LEAN exercise to improve the quality, transparency and efficiency of its internal review process. An EPA webpage dedicated to Lean government explains the process enables environmental agencies to work more efficiently by eliminating waste in government processes. EPA offices have employed these LEAN methods to substantially shorten process timeframes.

The LEAN exercise helped inform several improvements that are now being implemented. This includes the development of a new website for the RFS petition process. The website includes tools and information resources that aim to more efficiently provide the basic information requested by stakeholders. According to the EPA, potential petitioners are encouraged to use the new Pathway Screening tool, which gives these parties a way to receive tailored information from the EPA before they start preparing their petitions. The petition submission process itself has also been streamlined. Petitions can now be submitted electronically through a secure portal.

According to the EPA, it has also developed detailed guidance for petitioners, including step-by-step instructions for various types of petitions. ” We strongly believe that this will help to standardize and improve the quality of incoming petitions, which will reduce the time needed to review new petitions,” said the EPA in its notice.

In addition, the EPA said it is launching the Efficient Producer petition process, which is designed to expedite processing of the large number of petitions submitted by corn starch and grain sorghum ethanol producers.

In a statement provided to Biomass Magazine, an EPA spokeswoman noted that specific time required for the EPA to review a pathway petition depends on the complexity of the application, the similarity of previously evaluated pathways, and whether the petition includes all of the information needed to conduct a lifecycle analysis. “While we cannot estimate a specific review time, the revised petition process includes improvements that we anticipate will result in significant reductions in the time needed for review,” she said. ” For corn and ethanol sorghum producers that use the new Efficient Producer petition process appropriately, we have designed the review process to be expedited. We anticipate the review process will take several weeks, which will be a significant improvement. “

The EPA is also expected to continue to prioritize petitions for cellulosic pathways, particularly for near-term projects.

“We believe we have revised our website to provide more detailed information in a way that is easier for petitioners to understand.  We hope they will use the new tools and information to develop high quality petitions so that the review process can be as efficient as possible,” said the EPA spokeswoman.

The EPA has invited stakeholders to provide input on now to continue to improve the petition process. Comments can be submitted via email at support[at]epamts-support.com with the subject line “Petition Process Input.”

Additional information on the new pathway petition process is available on the EPA website.