The RFS: Where Things Stand

By Bob Cleaves | January 07, 2020

As we begin 2020, I thought an update of the Biomass Power Association’s pursuit of electric RINs, or eRINs, would be in order. Last year was big for us, and while we would prefer for this campaign to be over and electricity implemented in the RFS, we continue to make progress and gather momentum.

For those unfamiliar with the eRIN program—when Congress passed an updated version of the RFS in 2007, known as RFS2, it included electricity from qualifying renewable fuels as part of the program.
Just like corn ethanol displaces the use of gasoline in internal combustion engine vehicles, electricity made by biomass fuels displaces the need for coal or natural gas to power electric vehicles. It’s now well over a decade later, and the U.S. EPA still hasn’t administered the program, meaning biomass power generators still can’t earn credits for the renewable power they produce.

Last February, we introduced the RFS Power Coalition, which includes BPA, American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council. Biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy are the three technologies that should receive credit for producing electricity for transportation from RFS-approved feedstocks. Our collective members not only are entitled to participate in the RFS, they could all use the RIN credits following a decade of energy incentives going almost exclusively to other technologies like wind and solar.

Shortly after forming, the RFS Power Coalition filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the EPA’s 2019 renewable volume obligation for failing to include electricity. It has been 12 years since Congress made clear its intent to include electricity in the RFS2 law signed by former President George W. Bush. Despite so many years of opportunity, the EPA continues to fail to act.

Congress has repeatedly made its intentions clear. During the past two years, the RFS Power Coalition has worked with more than 50 members of Congress—some of them more than once—to send letters and make calls to the EPA to urge the agency to act immediately to implement eRINs. Last year’s Interior Appropriations bill included language “strongly encourag[ing]” the EPA to process the backlog of eRIN applications within 90 days of the bill becoming law. Since the EPA ignored Congress’ encouragement, this year’s Senate Interior Appropriations bill directs the EPA to act, using the word “shall” in place of strong encouragement thanks to the efforts of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

So, what can we expect in 2020? For starters, this is the year that our court case will be heard and decided. We will get the opportunity to argue our case orally in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals, with a judgment due next fall.

EPA, if you’re reading this column, pick up the phone and call us. We need to talk.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President, Biomass Power Association