In a notice posted yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is seeking comments on letters requesting a waiver of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and matters relevant to EPA’s consideration of those requests.  The comment period officially began on August 30 and will close on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.

EPA said it is issuing this notice to solicit comments and information on the waiver requests, and the views of the public on whether the  statutory basis for a waiver of the national RFS requirements has been  met and, if so, whether EPA should exercise its discretion to grant a  waiver.

According to the posting in yesterday’s Federal Register, EPA is requesting comment on any matter that might be relevant to the agency’s review of and actions in response to the requests, specifically including (but not limited to) information on:

  • Whether compliance with the RFS would severely harm the economy of Arkansas, North Carolina, other states, a region, or the United States;
  • 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 United States 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.

EPA stated that commenters should include data or specific examples in support of their comments in order to aid the administrator in evaluating the requests for a waiver and determining what action, if any, is appropriate in light of all of the circumstances.

According to news reports from Inside EPA, EPA air chief Gina McCarthy recently noted, “This is a relatively new process for us.”  Her remarks came at the Environmental Council of the States’ (ECOS) 2012 annual meeting in Colorado Springs during an August 27 panel of the group’s climate and energy subcommittee. ECOS represents many state environmental agencies.

Inside EPA reported that as the agency reviews the requests, it is struggling to determine “the parameters for severe hardship,” McCarthy said, given that the Clean Air Act does not define the term. “It’s clearly a high hurdle,” she told ECOS members, but added that the agency recognizes the drought has had significant adverse economic impacts.

More information about the comment period is available by clicking here and here.