Legislative Activity

Lawmakers Request EPA to Revise Corn Ethanol Volume Targets

On Thursday, January 16, a bipartisan group of 30 House members sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting the agency to reverse course on its latest proposal to revise the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume obligations for corn ethanol. In the letter, which was organized by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), the members express concern that the EPA’s proposal to revise the standard down to the 2012 volume targets would “hurt rural economies, jeopardize American jobs, raise prices at the pump, and deter investment in biofuels and biofuels infrastructure.” The lawmakers then urge EPA to once again set RFS obligations for corn ethanol in a manner “that is consistent with the law and its requirement to set volumes based on anticipated production.”

Leader McConnell Introduces Resolution of Disapproval on EPA Power Plant Rule

On Thursday, January 16, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed S. J .Res. 30, a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that seeks to prevent the EPA from finalizing its proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new power plants. In order to initiate the process to dislodge his resolution from its committee of jurisdiction, Leader McConnell must secure a favorable ruling from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicating that the EPA’s proposed rule in this instance constitutes a final agency action, since the statute only applies to: “the whole or a part of an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy.” Leader McConnell asserts that the EPA’s proposal is actually a final agency action because the rule relies on a “very unusual provision of the Clean Air Act . . . that gives immediate legal effect to the notice of proposed rulemaking.”  That section, in Leader McConnell’s view, would require a power plant built after the proposed rule’s publication to actually abide by the proposal’s CCS requirement before a permit could issue. Thus, because a legal obligation would arise under the Clean Air Act before publication of a final rule, Leader McConnell argues that the proposed rule constitutes a final agency action.

This Week’s Hearings

  • Tuesday, January 28: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee hearing to receive testimony on S. 1600, the “Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013.”
  • Thursday, January 30: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled, “U.S. Crude Oil Exports: Opportunities and Challenges” to explore lifting the current ban on U.S. crude exports.”

Regulatory Activity

EPA to Reconsider Volume Targets for Cellulosic Biofuels

On Thursday, January 23, the EPA sent notices to the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Association advising that the agency will partially grant their petition to reconsider the 2014 volume obligation standard for cellulosic ethanol. The EPA explained that reconsideration is necessary because after the comment period for the rule ended (but not before the final rule was published on August 15, 2013), the major U.S. producer of cellulosic biofuel, KiOR, announced that it failed to meet its second-quarter production targets. The EPA will now initiate a new notice and comment rulemaking to revise the previously published standard.

Key Working Group Recommends No Further Analysis of CCS Science

On Tuesday, January 21, a working group of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) recommended that the Board refrain from further analysis of the science relied upon by the EPA in the recently proposed GHG emissions rule for new coal-fired power plants. In December, SAB members recommended that a working group review the scientific analysis that EPA relied on for its proposal to require new coal-fired plants to install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) equipment. But according to the working group tasked with evaluating that issue, further review of the CCS science would not benefit the proposed rule. The working group came to this conclusion as a result of: “(1) information provided [by EPA staff] on the Clean Air Act statutory requirements for feasible technology, the (2) status of carbon sequestration under the Underground Injection Control Program, and (3) additional information on the EPA peer review process.”