NPRA to EPA: Take time to determine impacts before changing RFS

More time should be taken to determine actual impacts before the US Environmental Protection Agency makes significant changes in the federal renewable fuels standard, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association said on Sept. 25.

Sep 28th, 2009

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 28 -- More time should be taken to determine actual impacts before the US Environmental Protection Agency makes significant changes in the federal renewable fuels standard, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association said on Sept. 25.

“NPRA’s concerns with these proposed changes range from the lack of time allowed for implementation of the program to cellulosic availability to implementation of midlevel ethanol blends such as E15 without comprehensive testing and research,” noted Charles T. Drevna, the association’s president, as NPRA submitted formal written comments on proposed changes to the RFS established by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

“These concerns expose the fundamental problems with implementing federal fuels mandates, and the unintended consequences are frequently ignored,” Drevna said.

In its comments, NPRA said the only workable approach for effectively implementing the proposed changes is to wait until Jan. 1, 2011, or later. “Even if EPA is able to promulgate a final rule before January 2010, it will take until 2011 to accomplish the registrations that are required and to put in place the systems and plans that are necessary for compliance (assuming that EPA can issue the final rule by January 2010),” it said.

The agency should not even try to implement proposed changes by the middle of next year, it continued. “A mid-2010 start date will not provide the regulated parties sufficient time to accomplish the registrations and put plans in place for compliance. Moreover, starting the program in mid-2010 will only add additional complexities,” NPRA maintained.

Actual capacity
Demonstrated production capability will be critical as EPA makes its annual assessment of cellulosic biofuel capacity outlined in the proposals, it noted. Relying on planned capacity for such new and proven technologies poses significant risks, it warned.

“When assessing new technologies, EPA must adopt a higher standard that capability must be demonstrated both in terms of the actual fuel being produced and the capacity of the plant to operate reliably at some demonstrated operating capacity,” it said. “Obligated parties must not be put in the position of being forced to carry deficits forward due to the unreliability of new technology, or EPA’s overly optimistic acceptance of new technology capability claims.”

NPRA said it supports prudent development and use of biofuels, including ethanol, to make the US transportation and offroad fuels portfolio more diverse.

“However, before the use of midlevel ethanol blends is permitted, EPA has an affirmative obligation to find, based on comprehensive and unbiased test data, that these blends are safe for consumers, do not harm gasoline-powered engines, and do not lead to increases in emissions from these engines that will harm the environment,” it added.

Data submitted by Growth Energy, a fuel ethanol advocacy group, in its petition to raise the allowable ethanol limit in gasoline to 15% from 10% “does not come close to meeting these admittedly and necessarily high standards, and thus the petition must be rejected,” NPRA said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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