Senators urge EPA to process eRIN applications

By Erin Voegele | June 12, 2019

A bipartisan group of nine senators, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jeff. Merkley, D-Ore., sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler June 11 urging the agency to act on pending applications for electric fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Within the letter, the senators note that “utilizing waste products as an energy source produces a range of important benefits.” They explain dairy farmers can process manure in anaerobic digesters, producing biogas that is used to generate electricity. In addition, municipalities can invest in waste-to-energy facilities to generate energy from municipal solid waste, food waste and wastewater biosolids, while biomass plants provide a market for materials that would otherwise be left in forests or landfills to decay, reducing wildfire risks. “Furthermore, these applications employ rural, skilled Americans who provide invaluable services to our states and communities in the forestry and farming sectors.

The letter notes President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act into law on Feb. 15. That law includes a congressional directive for the EPA to process pending electric pathway applications, strongly encouraging the agency to take action on existing applications within 90 days.

“Ninety days have elapsed since this legislation was enacted, and we respectfully request EPA follow this congressional directive and take action on electric pathway applications,” the senators wrote. “Further delays will harm our farmers, truckers, landowners, loggers and forest owners.”

Representatives of the bioenergy industry have spoken out in support of the letter.

“We greatly appreciate the commitment of Senator Collins, Senator Merkley and all 9 signers of this letter, to hold the EPA accountable for its failure to include electricity in the RFS,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of Biomass Power Association. “This is absolutely critical to the biomass power industry and its supply chain including loggers and forest owners who contribute significantly to rural economies. The EPA has recognized that powering an electric vehicle with biomass is 96% less carbon emitting than using gasoline in a traditional engine. Including electricity in the RFS is something we can all agree needs to be done right away.”

“We shouldn’t need our Congress to push EPA leadership to take action that’s already spelled out in the law, but it’s clear that has become necessary,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of American Biogas Council. “We appreciate all the Senators who stepped up to support the RFS and action to activate the renewable electricity pathway. It’s time for EPA to process the applications already submitted and allow these renewable electricity projects to create new revenue streams and jobs, especially on American farms, while they also decarbonize our transportation sector.”

In addition to Collins and Merkley, the letter was signed by Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the RFS Power Coalition website