Industry urges EPA to speed up fuel petition review

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A biofuels industry group today urged U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to speed up an update of the agency’s process for approving petitions of new renewable fuels.Earlier this month, EPA announced it would undertake a six-month update of the process, through which the agency assesses the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of new fuel feedstocks and technologies.In a letter to McCarthy, the Biotechnology Industry Organization today said that the review was welcome but that the agency’s six-month time frame for making changes would hurt companies attempting to build up the nation’s next-generation biofuels industry.

“The agency should aim to complete this review process in a timelier and less disruptive manner,” BIO Executive Vice President Brent EricksonĀ wrote.

Approval of a fuel is generally seen as a catalyst for next-generation biofuels because it creates market demand. Only when a fuel is approved by EPA can refiners use it to comply with the 2007 federal renewable fuel standard.

According to BIO, EPA has completed only 42 percent of fuel petitions it has received. A study last May found that companies that have petitioned the agency for new next-generation fuel types, or fuels other than corn ethanol, have had to wait an average of 1.37 years for a decision.

EPA acknowledged earlier this month that the process could be more efficient.

“We have determined that improvements should be made to the petition process to enable more timely and efficient decision-making,” EPA said (Greenwire, March 19).

EPA said it would continue to review high-priority petitions during the update process. But BIO says the six-month delay would slow down the deployment of next-generation fuels, including cellulosic fuels made from plant-based inputs. By definition, those fuels emit less greenhouse gases than corn ethanol.

“An added six-month delay to the petition process — even if it results in a speedier process for the future — risks jeopardizing the availability of cellulosic and advanced biofuels to meet future year RFS obligations,” Erickson wrote.

The petition review process comes as EPA is also considering lowering the nation’s targets for both corn ethanol and advanced biofuels for the first time since the renewable fuel standard was put into place (Greenwire, Feb. 20).