Proposed consent decree offers timelines for ethanol, advanced fuels through 2016, biobased diesel through 2017.
In Washington, the EPA released a proposed consent decree in litigation brought against EPA by, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), that would establish the following schedule for issuing Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014 and 2015:
•By June 1, the agency will propose volume requirements for 2015;
•By November 30, EPA will finalize volume requirements for 2014 and 2015 and resolve a pending waiver petition for 2014.
Outside the scope of the consent decree, EPA also commits to:
•Propose the RFS volume requirements for 2016 by June 1, and finalize them by November 30;
•Propose and finalize the RFS biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2017 on the same schedule; and
•Re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.
EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.
Reaction from stakeholders
Tom Buis, CEO, Growth Energy
“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 November 30, 2015.
“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.”
Brooke Coleman, executive director, Advanced Ethanol Council
“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. 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.”
Brent Erickson, executive vice president, BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section
“To continue making visible progress in commercializing advanced biofuels, our member companies need stable policy. The changes EPA proposed in 2013 to the Renewable Fuel Standard program and the delay in taking final action on the rule have chilled investment in advanced biofuels, even as the first companies began to successfully prove this technology at commercial scale.
“Today, EPA has set out a timeline to get this program back on track. The agency must take strong action to reverse the damaging proposal to change the methodology of the program in order to comply with the requirements of the RFS.”
The Bottom Line
Good news, indeed, some degree of policy certainty on 2014 volumes, which will be finalized on the basis of produced volumes, and in terms of timelines for 2015, 2016 and even parts of 2017.
As BIO points out, there’s not much in the agreement as proposed that addresses how the methodology problems will be resolved that caused the EPA’s delay in the first place.
And a comment period is shortly underway, and if reaction to the 2013 EPA proposal on 2014 volumes is any indidation, large numbers of comments can be expected and, to the extent that those comments derailed the 2014 proposals, may be expected to be given great weight.
The complete proposed consent degree can be viewed here.