"We have extraordinary circumstances this year and we are looking at what relief we can provide everyone -- the ethanol industry is hurting as well." --
U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 20 May, 2020
More Low-Carbon Energy News FRS Waiver, Andrew Wheeler,
"EPA's consideration of small refinery exemption petitions going back to 2011 flies in the face of the recent 10th Circuit decision. By rolling back the clock, there appears to be no length EPA won't go to help refiners undermine the RFS. Make no mistake -- this handout to the oil industry comes at the expense of biodiesel producers and soybean farmers across the country, and particularly the Midwest. Allowing these gap filings renders the program completely unpredictable for renewable fuel producers. The agency must immediately reject these petitions to restore confidence that it will abide by the law in administering the RFS." NBB VP for Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik said.
NBB sent a June 1 letter to Administrator Wheeler saying, "EPA's first step upon receiving any petition for a small refinery exemption should be to evaluate its timeliness and validity before transmitting it to the Department of Energy." The letter makes the case that "gap" petitions or re-submissions of previously rejected petitions are inconsistent with the 10th Circuit's ruling. (Source: National Biodiesel Board, PR, NBB Website, 18 June, 2020) Contact: NBB, Kurt Kovarik, VP of Federal Affairs, (800) 841-5849, www.nbd.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News National Biodiesel Board, RFS, RFS Waiver, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler ,
"We are writing to request further information about petitions reportedly received by the U.S. EPA from small refiners seeking exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for past compliance years.
"The petitions in question were discussed during your testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 20, 2020. On the same day, U.S. DOE Under Secretary Mark Menezes confirmed that EPA is 'send[ing] over' past-year petitions for DOE review. Mr. Menezes described the petitions as 'gap filings' intended to reconstitute after-the-fact a continuous string of exemptions for select oil companies 'to be consistent with the Tenth Circuit decision.'
"This attempt to circumvent the courts and the RFS should be rejected out of hand. Even if EPA granted retroactive 'gap' exemptions without simultaneously returning the number of RINs associated with the exemption to the petitioner, such exemptions would be inconsistent with EPA's own policies and regulations, legal precedent, and Congressional intent.
"These 'gap filings' appear to be little more than the latest in a string of oil industry tactics designed to subvert the law and sidestep a court order to uphold the RFS.
Read the full letter HERE. (Source: Renewable Fuels Assoc., 9 June, 2020) Contact: RFA, www.fuelsamerica.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News Renewable Fuels Association, RFS Waiver, RFS, RFA, Ethanol, Ethanol Blend,
Since the pandemic's onset, the oil industry has asked for broad regulatory relief to help it survive sharply reduced global demand for fuel and to lower related costs.
(Source: US EPA, Reuters, 27 Mar., 2020) Contact: US EPA, Andrew Wheeler, Administrator, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-acting-administrator
More Low-Carbon Energy News US EPA, Andrew Wheeler, Renewable Fuel Standard,
"I'm disappointed the EPA chose to ignore the concerns voiced by renewable fuels producers, farmers and consumers. The flawed formula used to account for waived gallons creates unnecessary uncertainty in our markets, detrimental to so many across rural America. We must continue to work together to hold the EPA accountable for ensuring the 15 billion gallons mandated by the RFS are met. We must also continue to invest in infrastructure that builds demand and increases the availability of higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol across the state of Iowa."-- Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure program, which offers cost-share grants to help fuel retailers install infrastructure to increase the availability of ethanol and biodiesel. To date, the program has distributed or obligated over $33 million with $200 million added in private economic activity. (Source: Iowa Department of Agriculture, High Plains Journal, 29 Dec. 2019) Contact: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Mike Naig, Sec., 515-281-5321, www.iowaagriculture.gov
More Low-Carbon Energy News ANdrew Wheeler, Renewable Volume Obligations, RVO, RFS, "Hardship" Waiver, Ethanol.Ethanol Blend, EIA,
"We request that you cease issuing any further small refinery exemptions, immediately reallocate the remaining gallons, and make public the information regarding any recipients of these exemptions
"We are extremely concerned about the EPA's recent actions to continue to improperly grant small refinery hardship waivers under the RFS. EPA's continued manipulation and misuse of the small refiner waiver authority is undermining the integrity of the RFS and disadvantaging farmers. Rather than follow congressional intent in the RFS and follow through on the promises made to rural America, the EPA and the (Trump) Administration are providing waivers, in secret, to help some of the largest oil companies and refiners evade their compliance obligations under the Clean Air Act.
The letter's signatories included Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Farm Journal, Various Media, AgPro, 11 June, 2019)
More Low-Carbon Energy News Biofuel Blend, RFS, "Hardship Waivers" , Andrew Wheeler,
"Since EPA began granting these additional exemptions behind closed doors, we have seen devastating market impacts and dropping prices for renewable identification numbers (RINs). We need to stop the bleeding and prevent EPA from ABFA's lawsuit against EPA challenges its methodology for granting these exemptions, arguing the agency more than doubled the number of exempted refineries by illegally changing its petition review process behind closed doors," said ABFA Pres. Michael McAdams.
"Administrator Wheeler has indicated his intention to move forward on decisions for as many as 39 additional exemptions this year. ABFA cannot stand by while EPA unilaterally and illegally undermines the integrity of the RFS program. These new exemptions provide a financial windfall to refineries at the expense of biofuel producers and distributors. EPA is punishing the parties who have worked to increase the amount of renewable fuel blended into the U.S. transportation fuel supply as Congress intended by enacting the RFS first in 2005 and expanding it in 2007.
"For the first time since the inception of the RFS, we are seeing reductions in U.S. renewable fuel blending, and EPA's actions are to blame. Until the court is able to rule on the merits of ABFA's pending lawsuit, the agency should be prevented from taking further action."
"Hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Advanced Biofuels Association, 30 April, 2019)Contact: Advanced Biofuels Association, www.advancedbiofuelsassociation.com
More Low-Carbon Energy News "Hardship Waiver", Advanced Biofuels Association ,
Hallador and Pruitt are urging the Indiana republican controlled legislature to include language in the budget bill that would prohibit the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission from considering Obama-era regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the commission's decisions about rates and other issues that could impact the future of coal-generated electricity in the state.
Hallador claims Obama clean air regulations are the reason coal costs more than wind, solar and natural gas. They also claim that once President Trump and current EPA head and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler are finished gutting the Obama clean air regulations, the price of coal will drop. According to U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) US coal consumption has plummeted to its lowest levels in nearly 40 years and more coal-fired power plants closed in the first two years of the Trump administration than during President Obama's entire first term.
As readers may recall, Pruitt resigned from the EPA in July 2018 after an 18-month tenure best remembered for the seemingly mass handout of Renewable Fuel Standard "hardship" waivers to refineries, spending and ethical scandals. As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance.
(Source: Hallador Energy Company, The Environmental Working Group, 23 April, 20190 Contact: Hallador Energy Company, (303) 839-5504, www.halladorenergy.com
More Low-Carbon Energy News Scott Pruitt, Coal,
According to Wheeler, "RIN prices have been relatively low and relatively calm since last spring. So that tells me that there should be less economic harm in the refining industry now than there was a year ago."
As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Neb. Rural Radio, Reuters, Others, 14 April, 2019)
Contact: EPA,Administrator Andrew Wheeler, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-acting-administrator
More Low-Carbon Energy News Andrew Wheeler, RFS, RF, Hardship Waivers,
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was commenting on the progress of his "positive" talks with China about reducing Beijing's 70 pct "retaliatory" tariff on U.S. ethanol products.
In his comments, Perdue also noted that he wanted the EPA to more tightly control its use of small refinery "hardship" waivers that exempt plants from their obligation to blend biofuels like corn-based ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Perdue added that he'd discussed the matter with EPA chief Andrew Wheeler. (Source: Voice of America, NASDAQ, 9 April,
Contact: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, (202) 720-2791 -- general information, https://twitter.com/SecretarySonny, www.whitehouse.gov/people/sonny-perdue
More Low-Carbon Energy News Ethanol, Corn Ethanol,
"These new findings provide further evidence that biofuels from America's heartland reduce greenhouse gases even more than we thought, and that our farmers and ethanol plants continue to become more efficient and effective," said Secretary Sonny Perdue. "Expanding the sale of E15 year-round will provide consumers with more choices when they fill up at the pump, including environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions. I appreciate EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler moving expeditiously to finalize the E-15 rule before the start of summer driving season," Perdue added.
The study, led by Dr. Jan Lewandrowski of USDA's Office of the Chief Economist, and published in the journal Biofuels, supports findings of other research that ethanol has a significantly better GHG profile than previously estimated.
The study attributes much of these additional benefits to revised estimates of the impacts of land-use change as a result of demand for ethanol. Where previous estimates anticipated farmers bringing additional land into production as a result of increased corn prices, recent analysis finds only modest increases in crop acreage. Additional improvements at ethanol refineries, combined with on-farm conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions, such as reduced tillage and cover crops, have further decreased emissions associated with corn ethanol. The study projects that with added improvements in refineries and on farms, a reduction of over 70 pct in lifecycle emissions is possible by 2022.
The study is available for download HERE. Additional information on the greenhouse gas profile of biofuels is available at www.usda.gov/oce/oeep. (Source: USDA, 2 April, 2019) Contact: USDA, www.usda.gov
More Low-Carbon Energy News USDA, Ethanol, Corn Ethanol, Carbon Emissions, GHGs,
" As the Senate proceeds to consider the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I write to encourage you to secure tangible documentation from Mr. Wheeler that EPA will resolve two critically important issues before casting your confirmation vote: finalizing a legally -defensible Reid vapor pressure (RVP) rule to allow E15 use year-round before June 1, and reallocating ethanol blending obligations waived for 2016 and 2017 through the Small Refinery Exemption (SRE) provision of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
"I urge you hold Acting Administrator Wheeler to this high standard because of the harm done to renewable fuels by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Prior to his confirmation by the Senate, Mr. Pruitt pledged to support the RFS as the law of the land and the President's commitment to expanding ethanol use. However, while leading EPA, he undermined the RFS through an unprecedented number of backdoor refinery waivers which erased more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol blending obligations between 2016 and 2017. Furthermore, he refused to reallocate those blending obligations to other refiners, as called for under the law, and failed to initiate a rulemaking to allow E15 use year-round despite the fact it is a priority for the President. EPA's broken promises and abuse of the RFS compel Acting Administrator Wheeler to repair the damage by reallocating the blending obligations and finalizing a legally-defensible rule to allow E15 use year-round before June 1.
"During his recent confirmation hearing, Acting Administrator Wheeler assured Environment and Public Works committee members that EPA is 'still on schedule to issue a final rule allowing year-round E15 sales' but added there 'may be a slight delay' due to the recent government shutdown. The shutdown is not a credible excuse for a delay in the E15 rulemaking. In fact, recent history proves the Trump Administration can expedite high-priority rulemakings.
"Take for example the USDA newly-proposed work requirements for recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits. In December, as Congress was negotiating the Farm Bill, the Senate insisted that House conferees drop new food stamp work requirements from the final legislation. In response, to secure enough Republican votes in the House of Representatives to pass the Farm Bill conference report, USDA put forward a rulemaking to impose the work requirements through executive action. The Farm Bill conference report was adopted by Congress on December 12. The President waited to sign the Farm Bill until December 20, the same day USDA published the SNAP work requirement rulemaking.
"In just eight days USDA was able to issue a rule at the direction of the President to fulfill a promise to Republicans in the House of Representatives. It has been more than 100 days since the President Directed EPA to initiate a rulemaking to allow E15 use year-round. What is taking EPA so long to act? There is no better way to guarantee the RVP rule and reallocation of refinery waivers are addressed than by insisting Mr. Wheeler provide tangible evidence of his intentions on these issues prior to voting to confirm him.
"The RVP rule is particularly time-sensitive. Under EPA's existing and outdated RVP regulations, E15 cannot be sold in most areas of the country from June 1 to September 15, leaving just four short months from today to complete the rulemaking process. Unfortunately, EPA needlessly
plans to combine the RVP rule with reforms to the way Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are handled under the RFS. RIN reforms are highly-controversial among oil refiners so EPA's proposal will likely pit refiners against each other, causing a protracted dispute. If RIN reforms prevent EPA from finishing the RVP rule by June 1, it will result in another summer that E15 cannot be sold in many parts of the country when fuel demand is at its peak. Acting Administrator Wheeler should be encouraged to decouple RIN reforms from the RVP rule to ensure E15 can be offered for sale by June 1." (signed) Brian Jennings, CEO
American Coalition for Ethanol. (Source: ACE, 29 Jan., 2019)Contact: American Coalition for Ethanol, Brian Jennings, CEO, Ron Lamberty, VP, (605) 334-3381, https://ethanol.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News ANdrew Wheeler, American Coalition for Ethanol, Andrew Wheeler, Ethanol.Ethanol Blend,
The Obama administration 2015 regulation imposed CO2 limits on new and modified coal-fired power plants that could not be met without installing some kind of carbon-capture technology. The Trump EPA proposed replacement would reportedly raise allowable CO2 emissions from new and modified coal power plants without employing CCS technology while ensuring utilities use other advanced technologies to ensure coal is burned cleanly and efficiently. Since 2010, power plant owners have either retired or announced plans to retire at least 630 coal plants in 43 states -- nearly 40 pct of the U.S. coal fleet, according to data by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. (Source: EPA, Various Media, Bloomberg, 5 Dec., 2018)
Contact: American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, www.energyandpolicy.org/american-coalition-clean-coal-electricity; EPA, Office of Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-acting-administrator
More Low-Carbon Energy News Coal, Carbon Emissions,
"In the first year of the Trump administration, we've seen a 2.7 pct reduction in CO2 from 2016 to 2017. I'm not aware of a formal process within the administration" (to incorporate it into decision-making) Wheeler said. Wheeler noted "a 14 pct reduction in CO2 emissions in the United States since 2005," a time frame dominated by the 2009-2017 Obama administration which implemented strict environmental policies that influenced the reversals that the Trump administration seeks to take credit for while at the same time seeking to amend, reverse or eliminate.
"I think we really need to take a hard look at where the markets are going, where technology is going, where innovation is going, and what has driven the reduction in CO2, and we need to give credit for that CO2 reduction," Wheeler said.
Wheeler added that although he respects the efforts of career government scientists who worked on the report, he noted that the work was begun under the Obama administration and that the Trump administration did not play a part in the work. "We did not review it. I did not see the National Climate Change Assessment report until it was released," Wheeler proclaimed, the implication being that it was in some way lacking in credibility with the the Trump administration's touch.
Download the National Climate Assessment report HERE. (Source: Office of EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 28 Nov., 2018) Contact: Office of EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-acting-administrator
More Low-Carbon Energy News US EPA, National Climate Change Assesment,
"We welcome the administration's proposal to grow the biodiesel volumes, following two flat-lined years. This is a positive signal for our industry and we're pleased the EPA has acknowledged our ability to produce higher volumes. We've consistently demonstrated that we can do much more. The fact remains, though, instability in the RFS program caused by the EPA has done significant damage that can only be rectified for biodiesel through consistent and predictable growth in volumes, according to Kurt Kovarik, NBB VP Federal Affairs.
"Kovarik pointed to decisions by the EPA administrator to provide numerous (hardship) waivers to petroleum refiners that release them from their obligations under the RFS, effectively reducing the overall volumes under the program in 2016 and 2017. Those exemptions have effectively destroyed current demand for biodiesel by 300 million gallons.
"As a candidate on the campaign trail, Donald Trump pledged he would support biofuels and protect the RFS, Kovarik added. While this is just a proposal, we hope the administration is serious about growing biodiesel volumes and will fulfill the president's promise to support and grow the RFS.
The EPA proposed to raise the renewable volume obligations (RVO) for the biomass-based diesel category from 2.1 billion gallons in 2019 to 2.43 billion gallons in 2020. The agency also proposed to slightly increase the advanced biofuel category, for which biodiesel also qualifies, from 4.29 billion gallons in 2018 to 4.88 billion gallons in 2019.
"The RFS requires the EPA to grow the volume of advanced biofuels like biodiesel delivered to U.S. consumers. Since taking office, Trump's EPA has recommended zero growth for the biomass-based diesel category.
"This summer, 39 U.S. senators sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging him to increase biomass-based diesel and advanced volumes and accurately account for small refinery hardship exemptions in the annual RFS volumes. NBB specifically thanked Sens. Patty Murray, D-Washington; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for leading the letter.
"Noting that EPA proposes to set the 2020 biomass-based diesel volume at 2.43 billion gallons, the senators wrote, 'While these proposed increases are encouraging, these volumes continue to underestimate the existing potential of the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries in our states. We believe the biodiesel industry can do more and that EPA should demonstrate more confidence in the RFS program's ability to drive growth.' Comments from the senators and NBB demonstrate that the increased biomass-based diesel volume is achievable with available feedstocks. Calling on EPA to accurately account for small refinery hardship exemptions, the senators added, 'It is critical that EPA appropriately account for any small refiner economic hardship exemptions that it reasonably expects to grant during the 2019 compliance year in the final rule, or EPA will not be able to fulfill its duty to ensure RVOs are met.'
"We (NBB) join the senators in calling on EPA to raise biomass-based diesel volumes to an appropriate level that will drive additional growth. Biodiesel production has consistently exceeded the annual volume obligations set by EPA. The industry continues to operate below capacity, which limits job creation and economic growth. Moreover, EPA must fully and accurately account for small refiner hardship exemptions under the RFS. NBB estimates that the exemptions granted by EPA for 2016 and 2017 reduced demand for biodiesel and renewable diesel by about 300 million gallons. That lost demand is equal to or greater than the annual production of some of the nation's top biodiesel-producing states, including Washington, Missouri, North Dakota and Iowa. The volumes that EPA sets are meaningless if the agency does not ensure they are met at the end of the year.
"NBB and its members continue working to move the needle for higher volumes, meeting with the administration, working with biodiesel champions on the Hill, and collaborating with key industry stakeholders. The EPA is set to finalize volumes before Nov. 30." (Source: NBB, 24 Oct., 2018) Contact: NBB, Kurt Kovarik, VP Federal Affairs, (800) 841-5849, www.biodiesel.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News Renewable Fuel Standard, National Biodiesel Board,
E15 sales are currently blocked from the beginning of June through the middle of September because the fuel blend does not meet ozone standards spelled out in the Clean Air Act.
It is even more widely speculated that Trump's move is focused on stroking his biofuels and farm belt base before for the November mid-term elections.
(Source: CNBC, Various Media, 8 Oct., 2018)
More Low-Carbon Energy News E15, Trump, RFS, Biofuel,
The letter, dated October 3, notes that EPA issued its proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule in 2016 in an effort to gather additional information about the potential configurations of this new renewable electricity pathway but to date has failed to finalize the REGS rule or issue an approved renewable fuel pathway for biomass, waste-to-energy and other fuel sources.
The letter calls for Wheeler to immediately address all outstanding RIN registration requests and finalize a regulatory structure for biomass and waste-to-energy fuel pathways under the RFS program.
New Hampshire is currently home to There are currently seven biomass power facilities in New Hampshire that are on the verge of closing due to challenging power markets, the letter notes. (Source: Office of Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), 3 Oct., 2018) Contact: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, www.shaheen.senate.gov
More Low-Carbon Energy News Biomass, Woody Biomass, New Hampshire Biomass, RFS,
Trump's proposal aims to replace the Obama administration's signature effort to slow global warming by limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants. To that end, Trump's plan broadly increases each individual state's authority to decide how to regulate coal plants, the reasoning being that states that are heavily into coal and other fossil fuels will legislate favorably toward its fossil fuel industries.
Wheeler claims carbon emissions would continue decreasing under Trump's plan, albeit, not as quickly as under Obama's plan which Trump claims was tantamount to a "war on Coal." The Trump administration has acknowledged that the increased emissions from aging coal plants could kill hundreds more people annually and cost the U.S. billions of dollars. (Source: Various Media, LEX 18, 25 Aug., 2018) Contact: EPA, Andrew Wheeler, Administrator, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_R._Wheeler
More Low-Carbon Energy News Coal, Clean Coal, Clean Power Plan, Trump,
The new EPA proposal, which is projected to release 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared with Obama's Clean Power Plan, flies in the face of the 2015 Clean Power Plan requiring states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards based on their individual energy production and consumption.
Obama's plan was challenged as "unconstitutional" and outside the federal government's power to regulate. (Source: Various Media, WSJ, Various Media, 21 Aug., 2018)
More Low-Carbon Energy News Carbon Emissions, Obama Clean Power Plan,