EPA Takes Next Steps in Renewable Fuel Standard Program

December 05, 2022
EPA recently issued a multi-part proposal that will build on the strong foundation for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program started in the Biden-Harris Administration and seeks to advance the priorities of energy security, less pollution, and consumer protection. The RFS “Set” proposal requests public input on required volumes of biofuel for the next one to three years and on a series of important modifications to strengthen and expand the program. The agency is seeking public input on the proposal to help shape the RFS program in the years ahead.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard program is critical to helping incorporate more homegrown biofuels into the market,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This proposal supports low-carbon renewable fuels and seeks public input on ways to strengthen the program. With this proposal, EPA seeks to provide consumers with more options while diversifying our nation’s energy mix. EPA is also focused on strengthening the economics of our critical energy infrastructure, needed to maintain and boost our energy security. We’re eager to continue the dialogue on how biofuels can bolster U.S. energy security, protect consumers from high fuel costs, strengthen the rural economy, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
This proposal includes steady growth of biofuels for use in the nation’s fuel supply for 2023, 2024, and 2025. Because the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) does not include volumes after 2022, this is the first time that EPA is setting these proposed biofuel volume targets without using those outlined in statute. When setting biofuel volumes for years after 2022, EPA must consider a variety of factors specified in the statute, including costs, air quality, climate change, implementation of the program to date, energy security, infrastructure issues, commodity prices, and water quality and supply.
The agency is seeking comment on the proposed volumes and how to appropriately balance these factors so that the program works for renewable fuel growers and producers, refiners and the union workers who operate these facilities, and fuel consumers. Because this rule is an opportunity to take a fresh look at many aspects of the program, EPA is also seeking comment on how this rule can intersect with continued viability of domestic oil refining assets, including merchant refineries, how best to support novel fuels like sustainable aviation fuels and clean hydrogen, and how to account for the new and updated incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.
EPA is also proposing new regulations governing the generation of qualifying renewable electricity made from renewable biomass that is used for transportation fuel in electric vehicles. The agency is seeking comment on this new component of the RFS program that would tie electricity generation from renewable biomass into the program for the first time.
This proposed rule would increase U.S. energy security by reducing U.S. oil imports by roughly 160,000 to 180,000 barrels of oil per year over the time frame of the proposed rule, 2023 to 2025. The anticipated value of the energy security benefits over the time frame of the proposed rule ranges from $200-$223 million per year. 
EPA will be soliciting public comment on the proposed rule and holding a public hearing in January.
Comments on TSCA Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Wanted
The EPA is announcing the availability of and soliciting comment on an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) and Updated Economic Analysis following the completion of a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) proposed rule for reporting and recordkeeping requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The EPA seeks public comment on all aspects of the IRFA and Updated Economic Analysis, including underlying data and assumptions in developing its estimates, as well as on certain items presented in the IRFA for public comment and related to the protection of Confidential Business Information. Comments must be received on or before 27 December 2022. POC is Stephanie Griffin, Data Gathering and Analysis Division (7406M), Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001; telephone number: (202) 564-1463; email address: griffin.stephanie@epa.gov. (Federal Register 25 November 2022 [Proposed Rule] Pages 72439-72441).
Oregon DEQ Issued 4 Penalties in October for Environmental Violations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued four penalties totaling $68,541 in October for environmental violations. A detailed list of violations and resulting penalties is at https://ordeq.org/enforcement.
Fines ranged from $250 to $44,191. Alleged violations include a trucking company not immediately cleaning up a diesel spill along Interstate 84 in Eastern Oregon and cities violating wastewater permits and regulations.
DEQ issued civil penalties to the following organizations:
  • City of Chiloquin, $500, Chiloquin, wastewater
  • City of Echo, $250, Echo, wastewater
  • City of Wilsonville, $23,600, Wilsonville, wastewater
  • Marko Transport LLC, $44,191, Pendleton, emergency response
Organizations or individuals must either pay the fines or file an appeal within 20 days of receiving notice of the penalty. They may be able to offset a portion of a penalty by funding a supplemental environmental project that improves Oregon’s environment. Learn more about these projects at https://ordeq.org/sep.
Penalties may also include orders requiring specific tasks to prevent ongoing violations or additional environmental harm.
EPA Announces Proposal to Protect Tribal Reserved Rights in Water Quality Standards
During the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced a proposal to revise the federal water quality standards regulations to better protect Tribal rights under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this action, EPA is working to ensure that state and federal water quality standards will protect tribal rights such as the right to fish or gather aquatic plants—that are reserved through treaties, statutes, executive orders, or other sources of federal law.
“We know that our shared goal of protecting water resources for Tribes is strongest – and most effective – when it’s informed by the lived experiences of those impacted by pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By explicitly recognizing Tribal reserved rights in water quality standards, this proposal will help EPA ensure Tribal aquatic resources are abundant and safe to consume and reaffirms the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to our Nation-to-Nation partnership.”
This proposal, once final, would create a regulatory framework that would be applied on a case-specific basis to help ensure that water quality standards protect resources reserved to tribes, such as fish and wild rice. Additionally, the proposed regulatory framework would provide transparency and predictability for tribes, states, regulated parties, and the public.
The proposal also carries out the commitments to honor the federal trust responsibility and protect tribal reserved rights related to water resources outlined in EPA’s 2021 action plan, Strengthening the Nation-to-Nation Relationship with Tribes to Secure a Sustainable Water Future. It also delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to uphold the United States’ treaty and trust responsibilities to the 574 federally recognized tribes.
“The National Tribal Water Council strongly supports EPA’s proposal to revise federal water quality standards regulations to protect tribal reserved rights in areas on and off reservations,” said National Tribal Water Council Chairman Ken Norton. “In this way, water quality standards will fulfill federal obligations by requiring a level of water quality that supports tribally significant waters and water-dependent resources consistent with tribal treaties and the federal trust responsibility. Allowing for increased tribal participation in water quality management will better protect precious tribal waters and bolster the resilience of indigenous communities and families.”
The agency will accept comment on this proposal for 90 days. EPA will also hold two online public hearings on this proposal. Learn more about the proposed rule and public hearings.
Additionally, at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, Administrator Regan together with 16 other federal agencies, announced new best practices for Tribal Treaty and Reserved Rights. This set of documents will further the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to engage in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal governments and strengthen the protection of Tribal treaty rights.
The best practices include three documents: (1) Best Practices for Identifying and Protecting Tribal Treaty Rights, Reserved Rights, and other Similar Rights in Federal Regulatory Actions and Federal Decision-Making; (2) a shorter Best Practices Field Guide; and (3) a Decision Flow Chart. These best practices were developed in consultation with Tribal Nations and implements the agencies’ Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Tribal Treaty Rights and Reserved Rights.
For more information about the best practices documents visit the EPA’s Clean and Safe Water in Indian Country website.
Washington State Plan to Cut Statewide Fuel Emissions 20% Starts January 1
On Jan. 1, 2023, Washington’s new Clean Fuel Standard will begin cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation – the state’s largest source of carbon pollution.
Over the next 12 years, the new standard will reduce annual transportation emissions statewide by 20%, or about 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. That’s comparable to taking more than 900,000 cars permanently off the road.
The Washington Legislature passed the Clean Fuel Standard in 2021 and directed the Department of Ecology to implement the program beginning in 2023. Ecology recently adopted the final rules for the Clean Fuels Program to meet that deadline.
“We have to make it easier for people and businesses to use cleaner transportation options,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “The Clean Fuel Standard will jumpstart investments in low-carbon fuels, help expand our state’s infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles, and give consumers better choices as we grow our clean energy economy.”
The new Clean Fuels Program uses a market approach to incentivize fuel producers to reduce the “carbon intensity” of their products by 20% by 2034 – four years faster than first proposed. The accelerated timeline comes in response to strong public feedback and an independent economic analysis and fuel supply forecast that show 2034 is an achievable target.
Under the new program, fuels will be assessed to determine their “carbon intensity” – how much carbon pollution they produce over their lifecycle for the energy they deliver. Cleaner fuels – those with carbon intensities below the standard – will generate credits that can be kept or sold to producers of high-carbon fuels. This will spur production of cleaner blends of traditional fuels, notably gas and diesel, and is expected to stimulate further investment in alternative fuels and electric vehicles.  
The program also includes incentives for building charging infrastructure for electric and hydrogen-fuel vehicles and includes provisions to ensure overburdened communities see increased access to clean transportation.
$1.6 Million Penalty Levied for Air Emissions and Waste Management Violations
The United States and State of Wisconsin announced a settlement with Container Life Cycle Management, LLC (CLCM) recently that addresses Clean Air Act (CAA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations at the company’s container reconditioning facilities in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area. The company will pay a $1.6 million civil penalty to be split evenly between the United States and the State.
In a complaint filed with the proposed settlement, the United States alleged violations of the CAA, most notably at CLCM’s St. Francis facility, for failure to control emissions of volatile organic compounds as required by the EPA-approved Wisconsin state implementation plan. The complaint also alleges RCRA violations related to storage and handling of hazardous waste at the company’s facilities in St. Francis and Oak Creek, Wisconsin and its then-operating facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“Today’s settlement benefits public health and the environment by ensuring proper handling of hazardous wastes at Container Life Cycle Management’s container reconditioning facilities and will significantly limit harmful emissions of volatile organic compounds,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Highlights of the settlement include:
  • The company has installed and must continuously operate a regenerative thermal oxidizer to control air emissions of volatile organic compounds at the St. Francis facility. The company will also construct additional emissions capture systems within the facility and conduct performance testing.
  • At the Oak Creek facility, the company must install and continuously operate a new digital data recorder to record the temperature of the drum reclamation furnace afterburner. The company must maintain the afterburner temperature at or above 1,650 degrees and conduct performance testing.
  • The company must implement a container management plan, or CMP, for a two-year period established by the consent decree. The CMP provides for storage of heavy and non-empty containers in RCRA-compliant hazardous waste storage areas. Certain reporting requirements continue beyond the initial two-year period.
The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Wisconsin Roofing Contractor Continues to Expose Workers to Potentially Deadly Fall Hazards
An Appleton contractor with a long history of exposing employees to dangerous fall hazards now faces $349,371 in additional penalties after OSHA inspectors observed roofing workers at heights greater than 6 feet at risk of serious or fatal injuries at two Appleton-area jobsites in May and June 2022.
OSHA has cited Hector Able Hernandez – the operator of Town City Construction – repeatedly for exposing employees to fall hazards and proposed $633,500 in OSHA penalties – still mostly unpaid – for similar violations found during 16 inspections since 2004.
On May 16, 2022, in Greenville and on June 24, 2022, in Appleton, federal inspectors found Hernandez had employed 15 workers at the two sites for two weeks or less.
Following these inspections, OSHA cited Hernandez for three willful and two serious safety violations for failing to provide eye, head and fall protection and train workers on fall hazards.
"Hector Able Hernandez continually puts vulnerable workers at risk by blatantly ignoring federal workplace safety laws that help protect workers from serious and sometimes fatal fall injuries," said OSHA Area Director Robert Bonack in Appleton, Wisconsin. "Falls are one of deadliest hazards in the construction industry, and yet Town City Construction knowingly fails to fulfill its responsibility to ensure worker safety."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1,008 construction workers died on the job in 2020, with 351 of those fatalities related to falls from elevation.
"Our office has conducted more than 150 inspections of roofing contractors in 2022 – primarily in Outagamie County – following the widespread roofing damage caused by April's severe storms," Bonack added. "Employers are responsible for the safety of workers on the job. Those who hire roofing contractors can be another line of defense in protecting workers by insisting that the companies with whom they contract to make repairs follow federal safety regulations."
OSHA's stop falls website offers safety information and video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about fall hazards and proper safety procedures.
North Pacific Seafoods Penalized $345,000 for Clean Air Act Violations
The EPA recently announced that North Pacific Seafoods, Inc. of Seattle, Wash., paid a $345,000 penalty for Clean Air Act violations at two of its facilities in Naknek, Alaska. 
As a result of an investigation, EPA discovered North Pacific Seafoods was operating three solid waste incinerators that lacked any emission control or monitoring systems. The company did not notify EPA or the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation of the construction and operation of the incinerators and did not hold a permit to operate them, as required by the Clean Air Act. North Pacific Seafoods also failed to meet waste management plan requirements; operator training and qualification requirements; emission testing, recordkeeping and monitoring requirements.  
The incinerators were primarily used to burn clean paper, cardboard and clean wood waste. Emissions from the incinerators could expose communities to harmful air pollutants that can cause eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation; reproductive effects; and cancer. The company agreed to shut down the three incinerators rather than bring them into compliance with Clean Air Act requirements. 
“We recognize that rural Alaska communities face unique challenges with waste disposal,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement and Compliance Division. “But it is important that facilities comply with federal and state environmental regulatory requirements aimed at protecting people and the environment.”  
In addition, between 2017 and 2021, EPA found the company failed in many instances to conduct required maintenance or keep records of such maintenance on stationary engines used to generate power for the facilities. The Clean Air Act requires certain maintenance activities be conducted on stationary engines, such as periodic oil changes and testing, to minimize air pollution. 
Details of the violations EPA documented at the facilities of North Pacific Seafoods, Inc. can be found in the Consent Agreement and Final Order (PDF). 
EPA focuses its enforcement and compliance assurance resources on the most serious environmental violations by developing and implementing national program priorities, called National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs). This settlement supports EPA’s National Compliance Initiative for cleaner air. Learn more on EPA’s webpage
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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