Thune Introduces Bill to Advance Renewable Fuels Innovation

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced legislation to approve certain advanced biofuel registrations that have languished before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) despite the fuels being successfully used in at least one state. EPA would also be required to render a decision within 90 days on any registration application that has been pending for at least 180 days, as well as take action within 180 days for completed pathways petitions pending for at least 180 days.

“Finally advancing proven fuels like ethanol derived from corn fiber technology will permit ethanol producers to produce a higher-value fuel with even lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as enable them to utilize at scale the technology and facility investments they have already made,” said Thune. “The RFS intends for fuel technology to progress, not for prolonged EPA inaction to stifle it. At a time when the farm economy continues to face headwinds and uncertainty, my bill would improve the bottom line of numerous biofuel operators without direct federal assistance, adding value to the corn crop and increasing margins until fuel demand is restored.”

“EPA’s continued delays in approving biofuel pathways and facility registrations have led to an erosion of the RFS as Congress intended,” said Stephanie Batchelor, vice president of BIO’s industrial and environmental section. “Developing and producing these fuels and attracting investment to sustainable fuel projects has been curtailed as a result of EPA’s actions. This hampers the growth of rural America and stymies the development of the bioeconomy. BIO applauds Senators Thune and Shaheen for introducing legislation to provide sustainable fuel producers certainty. Bringing these innovative technologies online will be critical to creating a resilient, healthier energy sector in a post-COVID economic recovery.”

“We applaud Senators Thune and Shaheen for working on a bipartisan basis to break the regulatory logjam holding back cellulosic biofuels,” said Emily Skor, Growth Energy CEO. “Studies show that advanced biofuels can cut carbon emissions by 100 percent or more while providing a low-cost alternative to petroleum-based aromatics that poison our air and threaten our health. For too long, we’ve seen major investments in low-carbon biofuels held hostage by regulatory delays, even as farmers and biofuel producers work hand in hand to harness clean energy from agricultural residue, corn fiber, and waste. By keeping pathways frozen, EPA has put an artificial cap on advanced biofuels, limiting growth under the RFS. This important legislation will help clear the deck on long-overdue approvals and jumpstart growth at a time when revitalizing rural communities has never been more important.”

“ACE members are grateful to Senators Thune and Shaheen for their leadership in introducing a bill aimed at cutting the red tape currently holding up certain RFS pathway petitions for advanced biofuel,” Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO. “This legislation will help biofuel producers who continue to innovate and add technology to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel production processes. The delay in application approvals causes headaches for ethanol producers and the companies poised to work with them on innovations such as corn kernel fiber technology.”

In addition to approving certain biofuel registrations and requiring EPA action on pending registration applications and pathway petitions, the bill would provide $2 million for EPA to carry out the functions of the bill. Pathways are the feedstock method through which certain renewable fuels may be created, while registrations are individual facility certifications for producers affirming that their renewable fuel meets the standard required by the pathway. For example, corn kernel fiber was approved as a pathway in 2014, but EPA has not advanced numerous registration applications despite applicants meeting stringent peer review requirements and being approved for sale in at least one state.

EPA has also been slow to act on numerous pathway petitions, which seek to advance innovative and clean fuels made from renewable feedstock. Under the Thune bill, EPA will have to render a final decision within a total of one year after a pathway petition is deemed completed. A list of pending petitions for renewable fuel pathways can be found here.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is an original sponsor of this bill.