Industry: GHG regulations unfair for ethanol

By Kris Bevill | January 04, 2010
Report posted Jan. 5, 2010, at 2:48 p.m. CST

On Dec. 28, the U.S. EPA closed the 60-day public commentary period for its controversial proposed rule to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG). Approximately 7,000 comments were received by the agency during the 60-day comment period and the agency must now review those comments before issuing its final rule.

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.

On Dec. 23, Growth Energy submitted a comment to the EPA on behalf of its ethanol producer members, requesting that ethanol be exempted from participating in the proposed regulation program based on the industry's existing environmentally beneficial practices. "The modern grain ethanol industry is part of an ecosystem in which the crops that are processed into food, feed and fuel actually absorb inordinately large amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere (most often generated by the conversion or use of fossil fuels) and hence serve as a means of cycling CO2 rather than generating new additions to the overall loading of GHG's in the environment," Growth Energy President Tom Buis said in the comment.

Additionally, Growth Energy states in its comment that if the rule is finalized as proposed, nearly every ethanol facility would be required to participate in the program, resulting in added operating costs that many producers cannot afford.

"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. Thorne said that many of the big emitters, such as utility companies, operate more than one facility, are already regulated and are better equipped to handle the added costs of GHG regulation than most ethanol producers. In the comment filed with the EPA, Buis stated that many ethanol facilities rely upon outside consultants to prepare permit applications. "Total fees for consulting, application and annual emission inventory can quickly reach over $150,000," he stated. "It is one more additional financial burden these facilities may not be able to cover, especially during the current economic climate. Not to mention the lack of consistency in application and emission inventory fees among state regulatory agencies."

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.

To view Growth Energy's entire comment, click here.