Growth Energy: Delay or suspend proposed rule

By Holly Jessen | February 09, 2010
In comments submitted to the U.S. EPA on behalf of its ethanol producer members, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, strongly encouraged the EPA to either suspend or delay implementation of the proposed rule to regulate greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions. The proposed tailoring rule is separate from the GHG reporting requirement that became mandatory for large GHG emitters on Jan. 1.

"The ethanol industry GHG emissions are significantly smaller than utilities (and actually more a cycling of the CO2 due to our feedstocks' ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere) and other stationary sources that basically are fossil fuel processors," Buis said in the comment. "Therefore, we encourage EPA to consider addressing other industries initially with this rule while working with the ethanol industry to develop best GHG control practices."

On Dec. 28, just a few days after Growth Energy submitted its comment, the EPA closed its 60-day comment period. Approximately 7,000 comments were received by the agency and must now be reviewed before the final rule is issued.

The Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule would require all U.S. facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of GHGs annually to obtain permits that demonstrate the facility is using best practices and technologies to reduce emissions. New thresholds for emissions would be established, resulting in a greater number of Title V permit program participants and the need for more facilities to acquire Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits.

First, Growth Energy told the EPA it should suspend implementation if there are any legal challenges to the agency's Endangerment Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act. Second, Growth Energy encouraged the EPA to delay implementation of the proposed rule until more programmatic systems are developed. Failing that, the organization asked the EPA to create an agency or industry advisory group to help implement the rule in a realistic and cost-effective way.

Among a number of concerns identified by the comment were the frequency of permit renewals a facility would be required to submit, cost, the lack of a coordination plan with state implementation plans and no guidance on state fee schedules. Buis wrote in the comment that using one control strategy may be economical, but it could create a "significant financial burden" if applied at smaller facilities with fewer regulated emissions.

"While the ethanol industry is growing in size, regulatory applicability and experience, our facilities should not be compared to larger emitting utilities that can afford to employ most costly control technologies," Buis said.

"We see the Title V rule as kind of a one size fits all' approach and the costs of getting an environmental consultant to help meet the annual permitting process is going to be an onerous cost for a lot of the single-plant operators in the ethanol business," Growth Energy communications director Christopher Thorne told EPM.

The comment from Growth Energy went on to say that the nation's ethanol industry contributes significantly to the environment in matters of pollution reduction. In addition, modern ethanol plants are already regulated on both the federal and state level.

"The industry continues to implement environmentally friendly technologies to lessen carbon impacts while enhancing air and water quality," he said.

Growth Energy's highest priority, according to the comment, is to limit ethanol industry participation in the proposed GHG regulation program to only those facilities that exceed the emission threshold for non-GHG pollutants. "We'd like to work with the EPA to create an oversight program that's specific to the ethanol industry," Thorne said.