The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Monday took what could be an important step to rectify a lawsuit filed by oil industry groups challenging the agency's 2013 cellulosic ethanol blending requirement in the renewable fuel standard.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers both petitioned and sued EPA shortly after it issued the 2013 final RFS rule last August. The claim was that not enough cellulosic ethanol had been produced for gasoline blenders to meet RFS requirements for 2013. Both groups also sued EPA on the same issue in 2011 and 2012, and both times the agency changed the cellulosic ethanol volumes.
EPA announced Tuesday that it was issuing a direct final rule that resets the 2013 volume at the exact number of cellulosic renewable identification numbers, or RINs, produced in 2013. If the agency receives opposition to setting the exact volumes, the agency also issued a proposed rule to invite comments.
EPA originally set the cellulosic ethanol RFS volume at six million gallons for 2013, but actual production came it at just more than 800,000 gallons.
For many cellulosic ethanol companies 2014 is expected to be an important year, as many budding producers are on target to produce their first commercial-scale gallons, including companies in Iowa and Kansas.
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On its website today, EPA said it does not expect to see opposition to its proposal.
"EPA is publishing a direct final rule because we view this as a noncontroversial action," the agency said.
"Finalizing this adjusted 2013 cellulosic biofuel standard expeditiously will reduce regulatory uncertainty and avoid unnecessary cost or burden for obligated parties.
"Although not relevant to today's action it should be noted that EPA does not anticipate that future modifications to company cellulosic biofuel production estimates received after the close of a comment period will necessarily be grounds for the reconsideration in future years and any similar situation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis."
On Aug. 6, 2013 EPA finalized the annual RFS volume for cellulosic biofuel.
EPA then set the 2013 cellulosic biofuel percentage standard using the volume of cellulosic biofuel of six million ethanol gallons. That amount was expected to be produced last year.
Then on Oct. 10, 2013 and Oct. 11, 2013 EPA received petitions from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute requesting that EPA reconsider portions of the final rule.
For more information go to EPA's web page on the RFS, http://tinyurl.com/….
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