Letter urges EPA to process eRIN applications

By Erin Voegele | September 28, 2018

The owner of a biomass power facility in California is asking the U.S. EPA to process applications from biomass power producers who want to participate in the Renewable Fuel Standard program.

Steven Mueller, president of Loyalton Cogen LLC, a 20 MW biomass cogeneration power station located in the Sierra Nevada region of rural northern California, sent a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Sept. 25.

Within the letter, Mueller notes that his biomass plant is surrounded by three of the largest national forests in the U.S. “Our plant is the only facility in the region, other than out-of-state landfills, that is able to receive high fire-risk biomass,” he wrote.

According to Mueller, Loyalton Cogen delivers electricity to more than 20,000 homes. The plant employs 50 highly paid, skilled workers. “Our county has only 4,500 residents, no traffic lights and is wholly dependent on logging and ranching,” he wrote. “It is fair to say that our region has been largely left behind with regards to federal policies that favor other renewable technologies.”

Within the letter, Mueller stresses that Congress agreed 11 years ago that renewably generated electricity should be pathway under the RFS. Four years ago, the EPA approved an electricity pathway for the program. However, the agency has not yet acted on this approval by processing formal applications from renewable electricity producers.

“The EPA now faces a four-year backlog of applications from power producers seeking registration as RIN producers for biogas-based electricity,” Mueller wrote. “More requests are expected following positive findings by the agency that power produced using certain solid forms of biomass now qualifies under the RFS.

“We have recently been informed that, until the agency resolves policy issues regarding how the RFS ‘electric pathway’ program will function, these applications will not be acted upon. This has completely blocked participation in the RFS electric pathway for both existing and future applicants.”

Mueller requests that Wheeler direct the EPA to expedite currently outstanding registration requests and permit the agency to finalize a formal decision with regard to a regulatory structure for the electric renewable identification number (RIN) pathway.

Without the timely inclusion of eRINs, Mueller said that hundreds of biomass, biogas and other renewable power generators will be forced to shut down. “These small facilities, located in rural communities and provide critically important jobs, will be lost in the push to build ever-larger solar electric and wind generation facilities,” he said.

The Biomass Power Association has spoken out in support of Mueller’s letter. “Denying biomass power producers their rightful participation in the RFS has had real world consequences, and we anticipate that these consequences will get worse,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of BPA. “Our industry has already seen shutdowns in recent years, and properly implementing the RFS could help avoid these problems. Most biomass power facilities, including Loyalton Cogen, are located in rural communities where they contribute significantly to the local economy.”