Regulation Database – Renewable Fuels
Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) Program
The original national Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS1) was established under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The finalized Renewable Fuel Standards Rule (2010) extended the Renewable Fuel Standard program as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The revised statutory requirements establish new specific volume standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that must be used in transportation fuel each year. The revised statutory requirements also include new definitions and criteria for both renewable fuels and the feedstocks used to produce them, including new greenhouse gas emission thresholds for renewable fuels.The new regulatory requirements for RFS (known as RFS2) will apply to domestic and foreign producers and importers of renewable fuel.
Response to petition:
The Clean Air Task Force, Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife Fund and the National Wildlife Federation filed petitions for reconsideration of the 2010 RFS rule, arguing that: (1) EPA should have required verification that the crops and crop residues used to produce renewable fuel complied with applicable land use restrictions, and (2) EPA should have considered whether the increased use of biofuels in the U.S. could reduce the global price of oil and thereby increase the use of petroleum-based fuels elsewhere. EPA announced that it had rejected these petitions on March 22, 2011.
- Partial Withdrawal of Amendments (June 30, 2010)
- Technical Amendments (May 10, 2010)
- Final Rule (Mar. 26, 2010)
- Proposed Rule (May 26, 2009)
On January 9, 2012, the EPA issued a final rule determining the volume of renewable fuel that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply in 2012 as required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provisions of Clean Air Act Section 211(o) (as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). This direct final rule describes EPA’s evaluation of biofuels produced from camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed, and napiergrass; it also includes an evaluation of renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstocks, as well as biodiesel from esterification, and clarifies the definition of renewable diesel. In addition, the rule establishes the percentage of output that each refiner and importer covered by the RFS must demonstrate derives from each of these fuels. Approximately 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels will be utilized in 2012 as a result of the new standards – equivalent to about 9% of anticipated fuel demand.
EPA reviews and approves new fuel pathways under the RFS program.
In January 2012, EPA issued a direct rule approving four fuels under the RFS: camelina, energy cane, napiergrass, and giant reed. EPA receiving adverse comments from environmental organizations concerned that the approval of the new fuels would lead to significant increases in land use change-related GHG emissions and encourage the spread of invasive or non-native species. In March 2012, EPA withdrew the direct rule pending further comment and consideration.
In March 2013, EPA published a final rule approving camelina oil and energy cane under the RFS program. In July 2013, EPA approved giant reed and napiergrass. In July 2014, EPA published its final approval of certain landfill biogases as cellulosic and advanced fuel pathways under the RFS.
Approvals for Specific Fuel Pathways:
- Camelina Oil and Energy Cane Approval (Mar. 5, 2013)
- Giant Reed and Napier Grass Approval (July 11, 2013)
- Landfill Biogas Approval (July 18, 2014)
- Full List of Approved Pathways
On October 22, 2013, EPA amended the definition of “heating oil” within the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program regulations under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act. The amendment allows for the inclusion of “fuel oils,” a source produced from renewable biomass used to heat buildings, to be included as a category of compliant renewable fuel. The rule also allows fuel oil producers to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), and creates specific registration and reporting requirements for the new fuel category. This rule is effective as of December 23rd, 2013.
- Final Rule (Oct. 22, 2013)
On August 15, 2013, EPA set the renewable fuel percentage standards for 2013 for cellulosic fuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuels, and renewable fuels for motor vehicles under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act. Standards are meant to be set in November of the previous year, in accordance with the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program established in 2010. The final 2013 percentage standards are 0.004% cellulosic fuel, 1.13% biomass-based diesel, 1.62% advanced biofuel, and 9.74% renewable fuel. The percentage standards represent the ratio of renewable fuel volume to projected non-renewable gasoline and diesel volume.
- Final Rule (Aug. 15, 2013)
On June 10, 2015, EPA set the renewable fuel percentage standards for cellulosic fuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuels, and renewable fuels for motor vehicles under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act imported for 2014 (retroactively), the remainder of 2015, and 2016. The rule also proposes to set applicable volumes of biomass-based diesel through 2017. Standards were set in accordance with the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program established in 2010. The 2014-2016 standards were:
- 2014: Cellulosic biofuel—0.019%, biomass-based diesel—1.42%, advanced biofuel—1.52%, renewable fuel—9.02%
- 2015: Cellulosic biofuel—0.059%, biomass-based diesel—1.41%, advanced biofuel—1.61%, renewable fuel—9.04%
- 2016: Cellulosic biofuel—0.114%, biomass-based diesel—1.49%, advanced biofuel—1.88%, renewable fuel—9.63%
On January 8, 2016, a coalition of biofuel and ethanol industry groups, led by Americans for Clean Energy, filed a lawsuit challenging the 2014-16 renewable fuel standards. The industry groups alleged, among other things, that EPA could not exercise its “inadequate domestic supply” waiver authority to reduce the total renewable fuel volume requirements for 2016.
On 28, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled for industry and vacated EPA’s decision. The court held that, in exercising its waiver authority, EPA erroneously considered “demand-side” factors. According to the court, “the inadequate domestic supply provision authorizes EPA to consider supply[-]side factors affecting the volume of renewable fuel that is available to refiners, blenders, and importers to meet the statutory volume requirements. It does not allow EPA to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect consumption of renewable fuel by consumers.”
In December 2016, EPA published finalized volume requirements and associated percentage standards to apply under the RFS program in 2017 for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. The final percentage standards are 0.173% cellulosic fuel, 1.67% biomass-based diesel, 2.38% advanced biofuel, and 10.70% renewable fuel. The rule also establishes the applicable volume of biomass-based diesel for 2018 (2.1 billion gallons).
- Final Rule (Dec. 12, 2016)
On Jan. 20, 2017, the Trump Administration issued a Presidential Memorandum entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” which directs all agencies to postpone the publication of new and pending regulations in order to give the new administration time to review those regulations. The the effective date of the 2017/2018 renewable fuel standards was postponed from Feb. 10, 2017 to Mar. 10, 2017. More info>>
EPA did not announce any further delays after this initial postponement; thus, the 2017/2018 RFS took effect on Mar. 10, 2017.
On December 11, 2018, the EPA finalized an update to the Renewable Fuel Standard Program for the years 2019 and 2020, pursuant to requirements under Section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act (as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). The rule modestly increases the total volume of renewable fuels that must be blended into gasoline and diesel to 19.92 billion gallons in 2019 (a 3.3% increase over 2018 levels). The rule also increases the volume standard for biomass-based diesel from 2.1 to 2.43 billion gallons in 2020. In addition, the action establishes percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2019. On February 11, 2019, National Wildlife Federation, Health Gulf, and Sierra Club challenged the rule as in violation of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act.
On January 15, 2021, EPA proposed extending the compliance deadlines for the 2019/2020 standards.
On July 29, 2019, EPA proposed an update to the Renewable Fuel Standard Program for the years 2020 and 2021, pursuant to requirements under Section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act (as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). The proposal would modestly increase the total volume of renewable fuels that must be blended into gasoline and diesel to 20.04 billion gallons in 2020 (a 2.4% increase over 2019 levels). The proposal would maintain the volume standard for biomass-based diesel at 2.43 billion gallons in 2020. The proposal also includes volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that are below the statutory volume targets. The proposal seeks to address the remand of the 2016 standard-setting rulemaking, discussed above.
On October 15, 2019, EPA issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking which, if finalized, would exempt small refineries from biofuel blending requirements.
On December 7, 2021, EPA proposed new biofuel volumes for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for years 2020, 2021, and 2022. The proposal scales back the amount of biofuels that U.S. oil refiners have been required to blend into their fuel mix since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2016, EPA proposed enhancements to RFS and other regulatory programs to support market growth of ethanol and other renewable fuels. The rule would: allow biofuel producers to partially process renewable feedstocks at one facility and further process them into renewable fuels at another facility; allow expanded availability of high ethanol fuel blends for use in flex fuel vehicles; and approve new feedstocks from certain sources. Upon extension, the comment period ends February 16, 2017.
In November 2010, EPA issued a partial waiver allowing fuel and fuel additive manufacturers to sell gasoline containing greater than 10 volume percent ethanol and no more than 15 volume percent ethanol (E15) for use in model year 2007 and later light motor vehicles (passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles). In January 2011, EPA extended the partial waiver to 2001-2006 model years.
In July 2011, EPA finalized a rule prohibiting E15 use in unapproved vehicles and providing labeling and other requirements to prevent misfueling with E15.
- Misfueling Rule (July 25, 2011)
- Partial Waiver for MY 2001-2006 (Jan. 26, 2011)
- Partial Waiver for MY 2007 and Newer (Nov. 4, 2010)
On May 30, 2019, EPA finalized a rule allowing E15 gasoline to take advantage of the “1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver that currently applies to E10 during the summer months. This rule allows E15 to be “sold year-round without additional RVP control rather than just eight months of the year.”
On July 5, 2011 EPA published final guidance to owners and operators of underground storage tanks. The guidance advises owners and operators of tanks containing ethanol and biodiesel blends on how to comply with the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Compliance for tanks containing blends of more than 10 percent ethanol or 20 percent biodiesel can be demonstrated by using equipment that has been certified by a nationally recognized, independent testing laboratory. The guidance is not legally binding on EPA, the states, or tank owners and operators.
- Final Guidance (July 5, 2011)
On July 15, 2015, EPA revised the existing requirements of underground storage tank regulations, and also added new requirements for secondary containment and operator training. The changes “established federal requirements that are similar to key portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005,” making amendments to the 1988 underground storage tank technical regulations.
- Final Rule (July 15, 2015)
The same changes were also made in regards to state program approval regulations.
- Final Rule (July 1, 2019)
On January 5, 2021, EPA proposed changes to E15 fuel dispenser labeling requirements, which included modifications to the underground storage tank regulations revised in 2015.
- Proposed Rule (Jan. 5, 2019)