EPA to Issue Report on RFS Impacts Next Spring
by Marc Heller (E&E Publishing/Greenwire) U.S. EPA will report on the environmental effects of biofuel mandates next spring, four years later than required by Congress, the agency said in documents accompanying its announcement of renewable fuel volumes for the next year. READ MORE
EPA issues documents discussing periodic reviews of the RFS (Ethanol Producer Magazine)
Senator Wants RFS Studies: Barrasso Asks Pruitt to Complete Required Environmental Studies on RFS Effects (DTN The Progressive Farmer)
Senator Wants Study of RFS Environmental Impact (Energy.AgWired.com)
Excerpt from Ethanol Producer Magazine: Within the documents, the EPA explains that the CAA language requiring periodic reviews of the RFS “is ambiguous in many respects, and provides EPA significant discretion to determine how and when the periodic reviews will be conducted and made available to the public.”
The agency notes that the statute does not provide direction on the extent of the required reviews, such as qualitative versus quantitative, or the format in which the reviews should be publicized. “The statute merely directs EPA to conduct ‘review,’ a broad and open-ended activity which requires the exercise of agency judgement,” the EPA said.
According to the EPA, the statute does not require the issuance of any specific and discrete agency document or action, and does not specify the precise timing or frequency with which the EPA must complete the reviews.
The agency stresses that it has conducted periodic reviews on existing technologies, the feasibility of achieving compliance with the requirements of the RFS, and the impacts of the RFS requirement. “In past years, we have conducted such periodic reviews, and made them publicly available through rulemakings published in the Federal Register and in supporting documents, as well as through non-rulemaking actions associated with the RFS program. Notwithstanding that we have not until today explicitly labeled those as ‘periodic reviews,’ they nevertheless satisfy the requirements of 211(o)(11),” the agency said in the notice documents.
The EPA explains that it has conducted periodic reviews of existing technologies in several contexts, including RFS1 final rulemaking, RFS2 final rulemaking, and in subsequent rulemakings, including those in which the agency set annual standards. Technologies have also been reviewed and considered in non-rulemaking contexts, including pathway petitions.
Periodic reviews of the feasibility of achieving compliance with the requirements of the RFS program have been primarily completed in the context of rulemakings to set annual standards.
In addition, the EPA said it has conducted reviews focused on the impacts of RFS volume targets on certain regulated entities, including refineries, blenders, distributors, importers, and on consumers. EPA indicated these reviews have taken place within the context of rulemaking activities, and as part of its actions to evaluate and respond to waiver requests. These factors were also reviewed as part of the agency’s effort to respond to several petitions to reconsider or modify the RFS point of obligation.
Excerpts from DTN The Progressive Farmer: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a letter to Pruitt the agency has dropped the ball on conducting RFS analyses the agency is required to complete.
“I request that you fulfill EPA’s obligation to complete studies assessing the environmental impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard under sections 211(v) of the Clean Air Act and 204 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” Barrasso said in the letter.
“Under section 211(v) of the Clean Air Act, EPA was required, by May 19, 2009, to study whether the RFS ‘will adversely impact air quality.’ To date, EPA has never completed that study. Under section 204 of EISA, EPA was required to report to Congress on the RFS’ impacts to the environment and resource conservation every three years. To date, EPA has issued only one report, in December 2011.”
Barrasso is chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.
In response to Barrasso, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement to DTN the industry has nothing to hide.
“It may come as a surprise, but we agree with Sen. Barrasso that updated studies and analyses of ethanol’s environmental impacts are needed,” Dinneen said. “We have absolutely nothing to hide, and nothing to be afraid of. We believe EPA should complete the agency’s congressionally mandated studies on the environmental impacts of the RFS, and believe the results will confirm that biofuels like ethanol offer enormous environmental benefits.
“Indeed, we would go one step further. We should also be studying the environmental impacts of gasoline, which continue to worsen as multi-national oil companies are forced to dig and drill deeper to access more marginal sources of petroleum.”
In the letter to Pruitt, Barrasso said his committee has heard “increasing concerns” about how ethanol affects the environment.
“Most recently, Jonathan Lewis of the Clean Air Task Force testified that, ‘According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own data, the incremental additional corn ethanol produced in response to the 2007 expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard has higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline,'” Barrasso said.
“Any objective and science-based analysis would undoubtedly show that ethanol offers clear and significant environmental benefits when compared to the fossil-based fuels it replaces,” Dinneen said.
He said ethanol replaces toxic gasoline components including benzene, reduces tailpipe pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter, and “slashes” greenhouse gas emissions.
USDA data shows ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43% compared to gasoline.