EPA agrees to reconsider 2013 cellulosic biofuel quotas

The US Environmental Protection Agency said it will reconsider 2013 cellulosic biofuel quotas it has made final because of new information the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers brought to its attention.

The trade associations submitted the information in October 2013 after the quotas’ comment period ended, but within the time period specified for judicial review, EPA said on Jan. 23. It said it determined that the information is of central relevance, meeting the statutory requirements for granting the two trade associations’ request for reconsideration.

“We believe that KiOR’s Aug. 8, 2013, announcement of reduced anticipated production in 2013, which your petition noted, justifies reconsideration of the 2013 cellulosic biofuel standard,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in her letter to API. AFPM received a similar letter.

KiOR Inc., a Pasadena, Tex., renewable fuels manufacturer, said on Dec. 23, 2013, that it expected to produce about 920,000 gal of biofuels for the year at its Columbus, Miss., plant, comprised of 35% gasoline, 40% diesel, and 25% fuel oil.

“Other objections to the cellulosic biofuel standard noted in your petition may be raised in the context of this future rulemaking if you continue to believe they are relevant,” McCarthy continued in her letters to the trade associations.

Promises additional response

“We will respond at a later date to components of your petition for reconsideration of the 2013 RFS rule that are related to matters other than the cellulosic biofuel standard,” McCarthy said.

“It’s refreshing that EPA has finally agreed to reconsider bad public policy, mandating biofuels that do not exist,” API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco said in response to EPA’s decision.

“We continue to ask that EPA base its cellulosic mandates on actual production rather than projections that—year after year—have fallen far short of reality,” Greco said, adding, “For 4 years running, biofuel producers have promised high cellulosic ethanol production that hasn’t happened.”

AFPM Pres. Charles T. Drevna said, “The agency’s optimism for cellulosic biofuel appears to have been tempered by reality. EPA used common sense when making this decision and we believe common sense should also prevail in resetting the 2013 cellulosic RVO, which would mean that our members will not be required to purchase credits for a fuel that does not exist.”

Drevna said EPA set the 2013 cellulosic biofuels obligation at 6 million gal, when fewer than 1 million gal were actually produced. This followed the agency’s March 2013 decision to set the requirement for 2012 to zero, he noted.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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