On Aug. 20, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a request for comment on letters seeking a waiver of the ethanol volume requirements of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). The Governors of Arkansas and North Carolina requested that EPA waive a portion of the renewable fuel standard under section 211(o)(7) of the Clean Air Act. Under this statute, EPA shall decide on a waiver request within 90 days of receiving it, in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy. The Notice issued by EPA formally triggers the 90 clock, so a determination should come by mid-November.
The petitions are largely focused on the ethanol portion of the RFS, rather than the Advanced Biofuels portion, which includes biodiesel. However, Gov. Bev Perdue (D-N.C.) cited the entire volume of the RFS for both 2012 (15.2 billion gallons) and 2013 (16.35 billion gallons) in her petition, which, whether intentional or not, could have implications for the biomass-based diesel (biodiesel) program within the RFS.
In the Notice, EPA specifically requested comments on:
- whether compliance with the RFS would severely harm the economy of Arkansas, North Carolina, other States, a region, or the U.S.;
- whether the relief requested will remedy the harm;
- to what extent, if any, a waiver would change demand for ethanol and affect prices of corn, other feedstocks, feed, and food;
- the amount of ethanol that is likely to be consumed in the U.S. during the relevant time period, based on its value to refiners for octane and other characteristics and other market conditions in the absence of the RFS volume requirements; and
- if a waiver were appropriate, the amount of required renewable fuel volume appropriate to waive, the date on which any waiver should commence and end, and to which compliance years it would apply.