It's Been a Long Week in the World of Policy

By Erin Voegele | March 22, 2013

It sometimes seems that policy and regulatory actions in the biomass industry take place in big spurts. This has been one of those weeks.

A few weeks ago, we covered some state legislation in New Mexico that aimed to allow for the creation of RECs for biomass thermal energy. It seems that that initiative has hit a wall, at least for this legislative session. While the measure was reportedly passed by the Senate late last week, the house failed to address it before concluding the legislative season before addressing it. Hopefully, state lawmakers will take up the issue again in the future.

In Oregon, a group of state lawmakers is working to eliminate Dec. 31, 2015 sunset date from the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, which is essentially a low carbon fuel standard similar to one implemented in California. The program was actually authorized in 2009, but implementation only began a few months ago, when Phase 1 of the program was voted into effect near the end of 2012. Phase 1 covers only reporting by obligated parties. Phase 2 of the program, which hasn’t been implemented yet, would actually require those supplying fuel within the state to reduce the GHG level of their fuels by 10 percent compared to 2010 levels. With the sunset date looming, it’s possible the program could expire before it has any chance to succeed.

In another state-level action, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is proposing to revise the state’s RPS program. While the DEEP’s plan would alter the program in many ways, of particular concern to those in our industry are changes that seem to indicate a total abandonment of biomass and landfill gas energy as energy sources eligible for REC generation. Stakeholders are invited to comment on the proposal through April 19. Please make the time to contribute your 2 cents.

On the federal level, the advanced biofuels industry was handed a small, but significant victory when the Senate voted down an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would have reallocated $60 million in funding to support the DOD’s biofuel program. The amendment was offered by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. Toomey had filed a similar bill that aimed to strip additional biofuels spending from the budget. It seems that that amendment was not taken up for vote. 

Finally, although it may not seem particularly pertinent to the advanced and drop-in biofuels industry, there has been a lot talk from high-ranking federal lawmakers regarding the high price of ethanol RINs., and what to do about. Not surprisingly, the API, is one organization leading the charge. A lot of reasons have been tossed out there as to the cause of high RIN prices, and some are using it as yet another excuse to attack the RFS. While the issue seems to be constrained to the corn ethanol industry at the moment, it’s certainly something we should all be paying attention to. I’d be willing to bet that the same arguments will be made once RINs for cellulosic drop-in fuels start flowing into the market, as their prices could be high as well.