Comment periods on 2 EPA RFS proposals to close in mid-February

By Erin Voegele | February 10, 2017

The comment periods on two U.S. EPA proposals that impact the renewable fuel standard (RFS) close later this month. Members of the public have until Feb. 16 to weigh in on the agency’s proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule, and until Feb. 22 to submit comments on its proposed denial of petitions that seek to change the point of obligation under the RFS.

The original 60-day comment period on the REGS rulemaking was set to close Jan. 17. On Dec. 20, the EPA announced it would extend the comment period for 30 days. On the same date, the agency also announced a 30-day extension of the comment period on the proposed point of obligation ruling. That comment period was originally scheduled to close Jan. 23.

The EPA released its proposed REGS rule on Oct. 3. The proposal includes an updated regulatory structure to allow biofuels producers to partially process feedstock at one facility and convert the resulting material into fuels at another using existing pathways. It also updates fuel regulations to allow expanded availability of high-ethanol fuel blends for use in flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) and includes new feedstock approvals for cellulosic biofuels produced from short-rotation poplar and willow, cellulosic diesel produced from compressing of cellulosic feedstocks and petroleum, and renewable diesel and biodiesel produced from non-cellulosic portions of separated food waste. In addition, the EPA said the proposal addresses a variety of other issues, including renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable electricity used as transportation fuel and requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce carbon in the production of renewable fuels in the future. 

On Nov. 10, the U.S. EPA proposed to deny several petitions requesting the agency redefine the point of obligation under the RFS. In its proposed denial of the petitions, the EPA said it believes the current structure of the RFS program is working to incentivize the production, distribution and use of renewable transportation fuels in the U.S. while providing obligated parties with various options for acquiring renewable identification numbers (RINs) needed to comply with RFS standards. In addition, the agency said it does not believe that the petitioners have demonstrated that changing the point of obligation is likely to result in the increased use of renewable fuels. The EPA also noted that changing the point of obligation would not address two of the primary issues that are inhibiting the growth in the supply of renewable fuels, specifically the challenges associated with commercializing cellulosic biofuel technologies and the marketplace dynamics that inhibit greater use of fuels containing higher levels of ethanol. http://ethanolproducer.com/articles/13898/epa-proposes-to-deny-change-in-rfs-point-of-obligation

According to the EPA, changing the point of obligation could disrupt investments reasonably made by participants in the fuels industry in reliance of the regulatory structure that is already in place. The agency also indicated that any programmatic advantages of to making such a change to the RFS would need to be certain and substantial in light of expects impacts on the program.

Comments on the REGS proposal can be filed under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0041 on Regulations.gov. To date, the website shows 145 comments have been received by the EPA. Comments on the proposed denial of requests to change the point of obligation can be filed under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0544 on Regulations.gov. The website shows 1,135 comments have been filed on that proposal to date.