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EPA withdraws direct final rule for camelina, certain grasses

By Erin Voegele | March 06, 2012

The U.S. EPA has withdrawn the direct final rule it published on Jan. 5 to add renewable fuel pathways for camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed, and napiergrass feedstocks under the RFS2. The direct final rule was scheduled to become effective March 5, unless the agency received adverse comments or a hearing request by Feb. 6. The EPA notice published in the March 5 edition of the Federal Register notes the agency did in fact receive adverse comments on several of the changes included in the direct final rule, and has therefore withdrawn the notice. 

However, the withdrawal of the direct final rule does not mean that the pathways will not be amended to the RFS2. The EPA also published a parallel proposed rule regarding the feedstock pathways on Jan. 5. According to the agency, it intends to address all comments in a subsequent final action, which will be passed on the parallel proposed rule. The agency also noted that it will not institute a second comment period on this action.

Regulations.gov currently shows several public comments that were submitted by the Feb.6 deadline regarding the final direct rule. While some of these comments criticized components of the rule making, many were offered in support of the direct final rule.  

For example, a comment submitted by Edward Ferguson on behalf of a consortium of companies and organizations, including the Boeing Co., Airlines for America, the Algal Biomass Organization and many others, offers support for the direct final rule. In the comment, the entities said that they support the inclusion of additional feedstock types including—but not limited to—camelina and energy grasses that can be used to make biobased jet fuels. “We urge the EPA to continue to expeditiously consider feedstock sources and fuel pathways for jet fuel as relevant petitions are submitted to EPA for consideration,” said the consortium in the comment.

Alternatively, Robert Bendick, director of U.S. government affairs at the Nature Conservancy, submitted a comment on behalf of the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species that criticized components of the direct final rule. Specifically, the comment pointed out that the rule would approve renewable fuel pathways for plant species that are listed as noxious weeds and/or are considered invasive species in the U.S. “EPA has not considered how this rulemaking will affect the introduction or spread of these species, nor has it taken action to avoid or minimize these effects,” said Bendick in the comment. 

 

 

5 Responses

  1. Neusa

    2012-03-17

    1

    Feb19 Hello April,I understand your cencorn and I agree.As a retired member of the military, I kept in contact with a LT Colonel who was my Battalion Commander.After he retired, he took a position at the Monterey Bay marine aquarium as a marine biologist.Their biggest cencorn was the preservation of the eco system of the Monterey Bay. As I recall, many research projects were limited out of cencorn of the oceans delicate balance.This post is a reminder of the value of our oceans using Algae as a Biofuel source. I am confident that as these methods develop, researchers fully understand the Land verses Ocean balance that must exist, if we plan long term use of these wonderful resources.

  2. Andrew Etter

    2012-03-07

    2

    what does this mean?

  3. bpickard

    2012-03-07

    3

    The EPS's concerns are legit. Some of these non-native grasses are very robust and once started can crowd out domestic plants and infest crop land. One of the benefits of energy crops is that they can be grown on marginal agricultural lands without irrigation. That sounds great unless you are a wheat farmer with irrigated land adjacent to or even miles away from an energy crop. If somehow the energy crop migrates into your wheat field, you have a gigantic problem - particularly if you want to grow organic wheat because you will not be able to use chemical herbicides to control the invasive species. So what it means is that we need to progress carefully to avoid creating monsters in the name of clean energy.

  4. Joanne Ivancic

    2012-03-08

    4

    I'm still not clear about what this means. Does it mean that fuels made with these feedstocks cannot be sold in the US? Or just that they won't be eligible for RINs? That they won't be counted as helping to meet RFS2 goals??? Does "pathway" refer to conversion technology? Or just to feedstock? Wouldn't you get different GHG or life cycle analysis results from the same feedstock depending on what technology is used for conversion and what product is made?

  5. Erin Voegele

    2012-03-09

    5

    Joanne, Biofuels facilities are not able to generate RINs for their fuel under the RFS2 until a pathway is apporved. If a facilty produces a biofuel--for example cellulosic ethanol--but does so with a non-approved feedstock, it will not be able to generate RINs. This means that obligated parties will not be able to use those gallons to meet RFS2 volume requirements, and will likely chose to only buy biofuels that can be used for compliance purposes. In this case the withdrawal of the ruel doesn't mean that these feedstocks won't be approved in the future. They very likely will be. What the EPA said is that it will continue the rulemaking with the parallel proposed rule, and take into account public comments as it does so. The direct final rule was basically the EPA's attempt to expedite the approval of these feedstock pathways. They did this becuase they didn't expect any objection. The parallel proposed rule that they issued the same day allows them to continue the rulemaking process using the traditional (non-expedited) steps. The rule adds pathways to the RFS2 lookup table. Facilities that plan to produce advanced or cellulsoic fuels can refer to that table to see if their process fits within the scope of one of existing pathways. If it does not, my understanding is that they need to petition the EPA to develop such a pathway.

  6.  

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