Industry group asks EPA to suspend Argentinian import program 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The U.S. biodiesel industry has petitioned U.S. EPA to halt a program for Argentinian imports of biodiesel.

In a petition for reconsideration filed yesterday, the National Biodiesel Board charged that EPA had approved the program without giving the public an opportunity to comment. The program is meant to certify that Argentinian biodiesel coming into the United States meets the requirements of the U.S. renewable fuel standard.

“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel said in a statement today. “As a result, we have asked the EPA to hold and reconsider its approval to allow a more open process with public comment and discussion.”

EPA’s renewable fuel standard regulations require foreign producers to certify that biofuels coming into the United States for use in the RFS program are made from only renewable biomass.

Foreign producers are typically required to map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce biodiesel. The system is meant to ensure that plant inputs came from land that was already being used to grow crops when the RFS was enacted in 2007.

EPA approved the new program for Argentina in January on a request from the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels, or CARBIO. Through it, a third party — the Peterson Control Group — would instead certify that biodiesel produced in Argentina for export to the United States meets the RFS requirements.

The National Biodiesel Board has previously criticized the approval of the program, arguing that it would lead to more biodiesel coming into the country from overseas, to the detriment of U.S. producers (Greenwire, Jan. 28).

According to the board’s petition, EPA denied the group a chance to comment before the approval was announced on Jan. 27. Because EPA didn’t approve the program through an open process, NBB says, U.S. producers have “significant questions” about whether biodiesel coming into the United States through the program would meet the renewable biomass conditions.

“Imports of biodiesel from Argentina are already having an impact on the U.S. biodiesel market,” the petition says, “and the CARBIO Approval provides additional advantages to this imported biodiesel over domestic production.”

The group is seeking an administrative stay on the program pending a public comment period. NBB also wants EPA to release a copy of CARBIO’s application for the program.

EPA has defended the approval of the program amid the industry backlash. In a recent interview with Greenwire, EPA senior adviser Paul Argyropoulos said the program would be “more rigorous” than the systems in place in other countries.

“It’s more robust because it has a commitment from a third party to actually audit the entire biofuels supply chain,” Argyropoulos said.

He added that the approval of the program was an administrative decision that is allowed under the regulation (Greenwire, Jan. 30).

An EPA spokeswoman this morning said that the agency had just received the petition.

“The agency will review the petition and respond to it,” she said.