EPA finalizes napier grass, giant reed RFS pathways

By Erin Voegele | July 02, 2013

The U.S. EPA has issued a supplemental final rule under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) pertaining to biofuels made from giant reed and napier grass feedstock, effective June. 28. The rule contains a lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis of biofuels made from these feedstocks, along with a final regulatory determination that such fuels qualify as cellulosic under the RFS. The rule also addresses concerns over the invasive potential of the feedstocks through a system of registration, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. 

The rulemaking process that was finalized June 28 has been ongoing since January 2012, when the EPA published a direct final rule and parallel proposed rule under the RFS. 

Those rulemaking actions included pathways for four biofuel feedstocks, including giant reed, napier grass, energy cane and camelina oil. After receiving adverse comments on the portion of the direct final rule pertaining to giant reed and napier grass, the EPA withdrew the direct final rule. Several provisions of the parallel proposed rule were finalized this year, in early March. However, that final rulemaking did not take action on giant reed or napier grass. 

The newly issued supplemental final rule includes the EPA’s determination that biofuel made from giant reed and napier grass meets the 60 percent GHG reduction threshold, qualifying it as a cellulosic fuel. 

In response to comments regarding concern over the invasive risk of these plant species, the rulemaking also includes requirements aimed at minimizing invasiveness risk. Biofuel producers utilizing the feedstocks will be required to demonstrate that growth of giant reed or napier grass will not pose a significantly likelihood of spreading beyond the planted area, or that the invasive risks are being managed and minimized through an EPA-approved Risk Mitigation Plan. The plan is to include means for early detection and rapid response to potential spread. It must also include best management practices, continuous monitoring and reporting of site conditions, and a plan for site closure, along with post-closure monitoring. A third-party auditor is also required evaluate the RMP annually.  

A full copy of the rule is available here