ABFA: Letter urges EPA to finalize provisions in REGS rule

By Erin Voegele | June 13, 2019

A group of 15 companies sent a letter to Assistant EPA Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum June 12 urging the agency to finalize provisions in the proposed renewable enhancement and growth support (REGS) rule to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers for the production of certain biofuels.

The REGS rule has been pending for more than two years. The EPA released the proposed REGS rule in October 2016. A public comment period was open through mid-February 2017. In April 2019, the agency announced plans to reopen a 15-day comment period on a portion of the REGS rule pertaining to small refinery exemptions (SREs). That comment period, however, has not yet been opened.

The letter was sent to Wehrum on behalf of the Advanced Biofuels Association, the Coalition to Address Removal of Regulatory Impediments, and others with interest in deploying sustainable fuels.

The letter explains CARRI is a broad-based group of companies focused on providing high-performing, sustainable, environmentally beneficial, high-quality fuels and biobased products to market. “We represent all forms of feedstock suppliers, technology providers, renewable product and fuel producers, fuel refiners, and marketers,” the letter states. “CARRI’s goal is to provide expeditious solutions to commercialization of these products by focusing on resolving and removing unnecessary interpretative and regulatory impediments adversely affecting commercialization of advanced and cellulosic biofuels and biobased products.”

The letter urges the EPA to take action to allow the production, transfer and use of biointermediates in renewable fuel production to generate renewable identification numbers (RINs). The letter also asks EPA to allow co-processing pathways to generate D3 cellulosic biofuel and D7 cellulosic diesel RINs and to approve mass balance and other alternative standardized industry-compatible test methods under the existing regulations to accurately account for the quality of RINs generated by renewable fuel produced through co-processing.

“As you are aware, the [REGs] rule includes proposed language that would resolve the current impediments associated with biointermediates and co-processing, and furthermore should be amended to clarify that mass balance and other appropriate test methods may be used at the discretion of obligated parties to determine RIN generation from co-processing,” the parties wrote in the letter, noting the language has already gone through the Administrative Procedure Act notice and comment requirements and waits finalization by EPA.

According to the letter, at a recent ABFA board meeting, it was suggested that the EPA could take a similar approach to biointermediates as it did with reopening comments on just one section of the REGS rule in April. The letter said utilizing this approach for the section on biointermediates would send a signal to the market that the EPA intends to move forward with addressing biointermediates and would establish a timeline by which the market could initiate certainty into production and planning.

“Given the fact that EPA already proposed rulemaking concerning biointermediates in 2016, we believe that EPA could finalize the biointermediates rule without further notice and comment,” the groups wrote. “We also believe that the agency has existing authority to allow companies to register pathways that include biointermediates for RIN generation, and it is not strictly necessary to issue a new rule. Finalizing the biointermediates rule, however, would provide certainty to the market. If the agency chooses not to immediately finalize the rule, the option we presented at our meeting was for the agency to reopen a brief comment period on sections dealing with biointermediates and complete the rule as expeditiously as possible.”

“The agency could announce and publish plans to finalize the proposed approach, ask for any additional comments for the record via an abbreviated comment period, and then initiate final action over a pre-determined timeframe that can be managed around meeting its other obligations,” the letter continues. “As part of this approach, the agency can also move to immediately implement an interim approach for the facilities that are ready to commercialize and produce these advanced cellulosic fuels using the biointermediates pathway. Given that there are only a handful of companies currently prepared to immediately take advantage of the biointermediates pathway, this would not stress agency resources. Guidance can be issued to those companies that includes assurances the agency is comfortable with through the registration process.”

The group calls the biointermediates issue one of the significant impediments the EPA must address to enable the market to transition to advanced and cellulosic fuels. Taking action on the issue will lead to the production of advanced and cellulosic fuels in the near and long term, the companies said.

The letter is signed by the Aerospace Industries Association, Airlines for America, Attis Industries, BP, the Biorenewable Deployment Consortium, Ensyn, Fulcrum Bioenergy, Gevo, Honeywell, Neste, Oberon Fuels, Sappi, Red Rock Biofuels, Shell, and Velocys.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the ABFA website.