Biofuel groups ask EPA to ease regulatory burdens

By Erin Voegele | May 16, 2017

Several biofuel trade groups have filed comments with the U.S. EPA asking for changes to regulations that are hindering the growth of U.S. ethanol production and use.  

On Feb 24, President Donald Trump released Executive Order 13777, focused on enforcing the regulatory reform agenda. The order aims “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.” The EPA is among the agencies impacted. 

One month later, on March 24, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a memorandum to agency staff outlining his plan to comply with the requirements of the executive order. In April, the EPA opened a public comment period inviting members of the public to provide input on existing regulations under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190 on Regulations.gov. That comment period closed May 15.

Information posted to the docket folder indicates nearly 60,000 comments were received. Several comments filed by representatives of the ethanol industry provide input on ways to lessen regulatory burdens impacting the U.S. renewable fuels industry. The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol, and Biotechnology Innovation Organization were among those who submitted comments.

In its comments, the RFA outlined several specific regulatory reform actions it believes the EPA can take to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens on the U.S. ethanol and American consumers. This includes eliminating the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility limits for all fuel blends containing more than 9 percent ethanol. The RFA also asked the agency to streamline survey programs intended to monitor and verify fuel quality and regulatory compliance, reform the petition process for new certification fuels, and eliminate unnecessarily burdensome and costly requirements related to the registration process for new fuels and additives. In addition, the RFA requested that the EPA revise the “R-factor” for fuel economy compliance calculations, level the playing field for credit generation for all alternative fuel vehicles, include the impact of fuel properties on fuel economy and emissions analysis, eliminate the detergency requirement for the gasoline portion of flex fuels containing 51-83 percent ethanol, reject the results of the EPAct/V2/E-89 Fuel Effects Study and suspend further use or development of the MOVES model until a new emissions study is conducted, revise the outdated lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis of corn ethanol, eliminate unnecessary barriers to cellulosic ethanol production from corn kernel fiber, and eliminate the Mandatory GHG Reporting Program. 

Growth Energy asked that the EPA administer the Renewable Fuels Standard as enacted into law by Congress and make every effort to propose, take public comment and finalize annual renewable volume obligations (RVOs) in a timely matter. In addition, Growth Energy requests that the EPA further streamline potential fuel pathways, find ways to improve the approval process for RFS fuel pathways, and proceed with approval of biointermediates. Growth Energy also asked the agency to fix the RVP disparity amongst ethanol-blended fuels, take action to remove the annual fuel survey requirement for those selling E15, correct factors limiting production and of flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) and eliminate barriers to the future production of FFVs capable of using any ethanol-blended fuel up to E85, suspend use of the MOVES model, and reconsider promulgation of requirements that would unnecessarily tighten standards on natural gasoline blendstocks used for ethanol blending. 

ACE asked the EPA to allow RVP relief to E15 and higher ethanol blends, update the lifecycle analysis of corn ethanol, and modify a mistaken interpretation of Section 211(f) of the Clean Air Act. In addition, ACE requested that the agency streamline the approval process for high-octane fuels, such as E25-40 blends, adjust fuel economy compliance to allow FFVs to utilize the same incentives that are provided to other alternative fuel vehicles, and discontinue use of the MOVES2014 emissions model until a new emissions study based on real-world test fuels and methods is conducted. 

In its comments, BIO asked the EPA to issues its annual RFS RVOs on time and interpret its general waiver authority in the same way as it did before 2013. BIO also requested the EPA make process improvements for RFS pathway approvals, work to facilitate inclusion of additional biofuels under the RFS program, update lifecycle analyses and evaluations of the environmental impact of biofuels, and reject all proposals to change the point of obligation under the RFS. 

Additional information is available on Regulations.gov under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190.