The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized its rule to identify additional cellulosic biofuel production pathways and pathway components that could be used in producing qualifying renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This final rule describes EPA’s evaluation of cellulosic biofuels derived from biogas.
While a step in the right direction, this doesn’t address the current backlog of new renewable fuel applications currently in the pipeline. In the past four years, the EPA has completed only 42 percent of the petitions it has received for new renewable fuel pathways under the RFS, BIO wrote in a recent letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
“Biofuel companies have had to wait an average of 17 months for approval of new pathways under the RFS; while companies filing cellulosic biofuel pathway petitions have faced the longest wait times – on average 24 months.
“Currently, more than 36 petitions are still awaiting action – either approval or denial – and the average time that all pending petitioning companies have waited currently exceeds 19 months. These delays have slowed deployment of new advanced biofuel technologies.”
Like BIO, several congressional officials called on the Agency to improve the petition process for new renewable fuel pathways in a timelier and less disruptive manner.
Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting more information detailing why the Agency cannot continue the processing of pending pathway applications simultaneously with efforts to improve the petition process and why the agency has suggested that applicants wait to file new petitions until the process is resolved.
Furthermore, the Senators argued that the EPA’s recent actions, including cuts to the RVO blending targets, “have increased the risk of investing in the renewable fuels industry by creating uncertainty in the marketplace, which has put investment dollars in jeopardy and slowed the deployment of domestic renewable fuels.”
One example of why reform to the EPA’s petition process is needed was recently publicized in the state of Maryland. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Representative Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5) and the entire Maryland Congressional Delegation urged the Agency to approve ethanol produced from winter barley as an advanced biofuel as it is critical in supporting the state’s bioeconomy:
“We write to encourage you to seriously consider approving ethanol produced from winter barley as an advanced biofuel. Barley is grown in the Chesapeake Bay region as a winter cover crop. It is planted in the fall after corn or soybeans to use any remaining nutrients from the previous crop, helping to prevent nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
“With an ethanol plant in Hopewell, Virginia, expected to begin operation later this year, a determination that winter barley-to-ethanol is an advanced biofuel would help develop a new domestic fuel source, improve water quality, and generate economic benefits for Maryland’s agricultural economy by creating a market for this highly effective winter cover crop.”
BIO thanks Senators Donnelly and Johanns as well as Representative Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5) and the entire Maryland Congressional Delegation for urging reform to the EPA’s petition process for new renewable fuels applications. Support for an efficient and timely approval process can help ensure a flourishing biofuels industry.