CFDC Calls on EPA to Uphold RVOs and Address Regulatory Obstacles

Source: By Burl Haigwood, Clean Fuels Development Coalition • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Washington, D.C. August 18, 2018:  In comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition  (CFDC) said the agency needs to not only uphold ethanol volumes but needs to address regulatory barriers that would result in reduced emissions by replacing harmful aromatic compounds in gasoline.

CFDC says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA) failure to reduce regulations is holding back the U.S.  ethanol industry which could produce significant volumes of clean burning octane. The Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and the Nebraska Ethanol Industry Coalition were among the commenters urging EPA to embrace a broader view of the Renewable Volume Obligation proposal and address a number of issues that would make meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard a non issue.

“The obligated parties who are not complying with the law claim the RIN prices are the problem, and RIN prices are a function of ethanol supply”, said CFDC Executive Director Doug Durante.  “While RIN prices have come down dramatically, they would be pennies if EPA would allow higher ethanol blends,” he said.

According to the CFDC,   there are a number of studies, assessments, and rulings under EPA jurisdiction of a regulatory nature that have the ability to limit ethanol use and in some case prohibit it. Conversely, addressing these issues would open the market to higher ethanol blends without further mandates or requirements and eliminate the RIN issue by marginalizing the cost. In so doing the coalition argues EPA would be protecting  the public health by replacing toxic aromatic compounds with clean burning ethanol.

“EPA’s playbook suggests they will tell us these issues are outside the scope of the rulemaking and continue to ignore them.  However it would be entirely appropriate for EPA to acknowledge the relationship of the following issues to a successful RFS and as measures being wholly consistent with the Agency’s mission to protect public health.”

Specifically, the comments identified the following actions:

  1.   Correct EPA Interpretation of 211(f) Substantially Similar Law. Other stakeholders had previously filed a legal memorandum with EPA to correct its mistaken interpretation of the so-called “sub-sim” provision in the Clean Air Act to remove any limitation  on higher blend volumes. As of January 1, 2017, E10 is the nation’s certification fuel, meaning that ethanol is a fuel additive used in certification and therefore cannot be controlled under additive rules.  Any attempt by EPA to control the use of blends above E10 should put the legal burden of proof on the agency to show that higher ethanol blends damage emissions control systems, or exacerbate tailpipe emissions.

2     Certification Fuel Approval.  EPA should expeditiously approve the use of a mid-level ethanol certification fuel (e.g., E25 – E30), allowing manufacturers to design optimized, high compression vehicles for use of 98 – 100 RON gasoline as #1 above is implemented over time.

  1. MOVES2014 Model Reform. EPA/OTAQ should suspend use of its defective MOVES model—which relies on manipulated fuel samples provided by oil interests—and remedy its many flaws.  Contrary to what happens in the real world, EPA added toxic aromatics and other “high boilers” to higher octane ethanol blends, and then deceptively attributed the higher emissions to ethanol rather than aromatics.  States that use the MOVES Model for State Implementation Plan compliance will be deterred from permitting use of higher blends until this model is corrected.
  2. Redo EPA’s 2007 Mobile Source Air Toxics (MSAT) Cost – Benefit Rule.  EPA used obsolete and fallacious factual predicates in its 2007 MSAT rule which were deliberately shaped to show that replacing toxic aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX) with higher octane ethanol would not be cost effective.   If EPA fulfilled its mandatory obligation under Section 202(l) of the Clean Air Act, and controlled BTEX content in order to reduce MSAT emissions “to the greatest achievable degree”, the MOVES model would by definition become unusable.
  3. Lifecycle Analysis.  EPA should immediately revise its outdated estimate of ethanol’s lifecycle carbon emissions (last iteration was in 2010), and bring it into line with the updated Argonne National Laboratory GREET model. Among other changes, EPA’s LCA models should recognize the ability of high-yield corn to restore soil organic matter, which transforms corn acres into substantial carbon sinks.  Both EPA and CARB should adjust their carbon intensity (CI) factors for corn ethanol downward
  4. Minimum 98 – 100 RON Gasoline Standard. Take advantage of the newly announced GHG – CAFE rulemaking to require an orderly transition to a nationwide minimum 98 – 100 RON gasoline standard, recalling the successful transition from leaded to unleaded gasoline in the 1980s.
  5. Reinstate some meaningful vehicle creditsto incentivize automakers to design engines to utilize ethanol’s high octane.  FFV credits have been effectively eliminated despite being no cost to consumers or taxpayers.  Automakers have particularly expressed interest in being able to pro-rate the FFV credits calculated on E85 usage to mid level blends that would be used to provide the above noted octane.
  6. Correct the Agency’s longstanding misinterpretation of the Vapor Pressure Waiverwhich former Administrator Pruitt repeatedly indicated EPA could do.

“The Trump administration has vowed to reduce, correct or  streamline existing regulations, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and generally be proactive in opening the domestic energy market.  Every single one of these measures is appropriate to that objective with the added benefit of improving air quality and protecting public health.” said Durante.