Waiting time for EPA pathway determination averages 1.37 years

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 31, 2013

Just as the U.S. EPA announced it was seeking comment on a new rule to establish a pathway for corn fiber to advanced biofuels, two University of Illinois researchers published an analysis of the long waits companies face when petitioning the agency for approval of a new pathway.

In a FarmDocDaily post, “EPA Biofuel Pathways and Petitions: Failure to Launch,” James McCubbins and Bryan Endres, describe the system and chart the waiting periods for the pathway petitions that have been filed with the EPA.

Under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), the EPA must approve new feedstocks and conversion processes through a lifecycle analysis that establishes the amount of greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction achieved. Pathways can only be approved that meet the GHG reduction goals set in the RFS under the different carve-outs conventional ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuel and renewable diesel.

“To date, EPA has approved 10 of the 42 petitions it has received for new biofuel pathway determinations, with an average waiting time of 1.37 years,” the authors found. The average wait for those already approved has been 290 days, but for those still waiting for a determination, the average wait time exceeds 570 days. The longest pending petition has sat in limbo for almost 3.5 years.

“The length of time between filing of the petition and final determination suggests that there may be a lack of transparency and clarity of the data EPA needs to conduct its assessment, especially for petitions involving substances or processes other than biodiesel or corn ethanol,” the authors conclude.