Biofuels groups file comments urging EPA to establish strong RVO RFS

On February 4, US biofuel industry representatives called on the US EPA to drop plans to reduce the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) of the 2020 Renewable Fuels Standard and urged the agency to establish strong RVOs for 2021 and 2022.

Various groups, including those representing the ethanol industry, the renewable natural gas (RNG) industry and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) producers were among those who filed public comments regarding the proposed rule. by the agency to revise the existing 2020 RVO and fix the long-overdue RVO for 2021 and 2022.

The EPA released the proposed rule Dec. 7, along with a separate proposed action in which the agency proposes to deny more than 60 pending Small Refinery Exemption (SRE) requests. The comment period on RVO’s proposed rule ended on February 4, while the comment period on the proposed SRE actions is open until February 7.

For 2020, the EPA is proposing to reduce the total RVO for renewable fuels to 17.13 billion gallons, from the 20.09 billion gallons finalized at the end of 2019. The nested RVO for advanced biofuels would be set at 4.63 billion gallons, up from 5.09 billion. The RVO for biomass diesel would be maintained at 2.43 billion gallons, while the RVO for cellulosic biofuel would be set at 510 million gallons, down from 590 million gallons. The agency said it was proposing to revise the 2020 RVOs to reflect challenges the program and market faced during the year, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 2021, the EPA proposes to set the RVO for total renewable fuel at 18.52 billion gallons, including 5.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel, 2.43 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel and 620 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. The EPA said the 2021 RVOs are offered at the agency’s draft level that the market will use by the end of this year.

For 2022, the EPA proposes to set the RVO for total renewable fuel at 20.77 billion gallons, including 5.77 billion gallons of advanced biofuel, 2.76 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel and 770 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. The agency is also proposing to add an additional 250 million gallon obligation and has stated its intention to add another additional 250 million gallon obligation in 2023. The additional obligations would address the dismissal of the 2014-2016 annual rule by the DC. Court of Appeals in Americans for Clean Energy v. EPA. The agency said spreading the obligation over two years would give the market time to respond to the additional obligation.

In its comments, the Renewable Fuels Association indicated strong support for the proposed RVO for 2022, but said the EPA should increase the proposed RVO for 2021 to set the 2021 requirement for conventional renewable fuels at the statutory target. of 15 billion gallons, compared to 13.32 billion gallons. as currently proposed. The FRG also pointed to the need for the EPA to drop plans to retroactively reduce the existing 2020 RVO.

In his comments, Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of the RFA, wrote that the organization is “strongly supportive of the proposed 2022 volumes for all categories of renewable fuels”, but noted that ethanol producers are “very troubled by the EPA’s questionable proposed use”. of its ‘reset’ authority to reopen the 2020 RVO.” According to Cooper, retroactively revising the 2020 RVO “…would set a dangerous precedent and contradict the agency’s longstanding position that it does not have the authority to ‘retroactively adjust RFS standards once finalized’.

RFA’s comments also express support for the EPA’s proposal to restore 500 million gallons of illegally waived RFS requirements from RVO 2016, as ordered by the DC Circuit Court in the Americans for Clean Energy vs. EPA case, calling the EPA’s plan “reasonable and fair.”

The U.S. Ethanol Coalition also warned of the danger posed by the EPA’s plan to retroactively reduce the 2020 RVO and called on the EPA to increase the proposed 2021 RVO and finalize the 2022 RVO as proposed. .

Without corrections for the 2020 and 2021 compliance years, the EPA can simply maintain a 2022 statutory volume of 15 billion gallons on paper, Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. He wrote that if the proposed cuts for 2020 and 2021 are finalized, it “…will mean that refiners will have built up a carryover RIN stockpile with which to achieve an implied 15 billion gallon conventional biofuel volume for 2022, as opposed to the mixture of physical gallons of E15 and premium ethanol blends.

Jennings also encouraged the EPA to proactively consider regulatory relief to ensure year-round market access for E15 and urged the agency to replace its internal greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling tool. ) highly obsolete biofuels by the latest version of the U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET model.

Additionally, Jennings briefed the EPA on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the first of its kind, ACE and several partners were awarded by the US Department of Agriculture last year for helping establish a protocol for ethanol producers and farmers to document the low-carbon benefits of certain agricultural practices and praised USDA Secretary Vilsack for his visionary efforts to establish a new agriculture and smart forestry to scale up the deployment of climate-smart agricultural practices and demonstrate their link to reducing GHG emissions from products such as ethanol.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) expressed support for the cellulosic targets included in the proposed RVOs for 2021 and 2022, but called on the EPA to immediately implement the existing 2020 RVOs.

“EPA’s continued support for the expansion of RNG production and use is greatly appreciated,” wrote Johannes Escudero, Founder and CEO of the RNG Coalition. 2022 is welcome, and we urge that these standards be published as soon as possible. We also ask that the current 2020 standards be applied immediately.

“RFS has been a key policy driver and remains critical to the growth of renewable natural gas, including helping to decarbonize our medium and heavy-duty transport sector. We are poised to supply growing volumes of domestic cellulosic biofuels for years to come,” added Escudero.

Business aviation groups have also weighed in on the EPA’s proposal, calling on the agency to support SAF development through the RFS. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association filed comments on behalf of the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel, urging the EPA to provide greater opportunities for the development of the SAF as it updates the RFS.

The coalition said that with the right changes, the RFS can go a long way toward helping the United States meet the Biden administration’s “SAF Grand Challenge” goal of bringing 3 billion gallons of SAF to market annually. 2030.

The SAF Coalition calls on the EPA to expand the list of eligible feedstocks, approve new process technologies and bio-intermediate opportunities, and ensure that RVOs for advanced biofuels are set at levels which will allow a greater supply of these fuels. Specifically, the comments urge the EPA to ensure that municipal solid waste (MSW) and woody biomass are included in the definition of biointermediates.

“We hope the EPA and this administration recognize the opportunity for SAF to move forward on the RFS program,” the SAF coalition wrote. “SAF growth will not occur unless the EPA responsibly improves the RFS regulatory structure – finalizing biointermediates, updating feedstock and technology opportunities, and increasing volumes. of RVO accordingly.”

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