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The U.S. EPA has withdrawn the direct final rule it published on Jan. 5 to add renewable fuel pathways for camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed, and napiergrass feedstocks under the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did in fact receive adverse comments on several of the changes included in the direct final rule, and has therefore withdrawn the notice.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. 


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