EPA Decision Leaves eRINs Out of RFS through 2025
September 28, 2023 | Mariem Zaghdoudi | Policy
In December 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a set of modifications to expand the renewable fuel standard (RFS). This proposal included activating a renewable electricity credit generation pathway (via eRINs) and identifying original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as credit generators. OEMs, such as auto manufacturers, in this case, are companies that manufacture and then sell products to other companies to, in turn, sell under their own branding. The rule would have increased the generation of renewable electricity from biomass, a Bioeconomy Coalition priority, but the EPA ultimately decided to leave eRINS out of the RFS until 2025.
After publishing the proposed rule in the Federal Register, the EPA held a public hearing in January 2023 and opened the floor for public comments through February 10, 2023. The Bioeconomy Coalition has long supported the expansion of the RFS to include an eRIN pathway as a way to increase the production of renewable electricity from biomass, as stated in the coalition’s policy priorities.
In this post, we examine various stakeholders’ stances on the rule and lay out the EPA’s final decision. This is a follow up to our post where we laid out the US EPA’s proposed rule around activating a renewable electricity credit generation pathway and discussed its implications with experts. Our previous post also provides a detailed explanation of eRINs (RIN stands for Renewable Identification Number) and the proposed rule.
The proposed eRINs provisions proved to be controversial
The proposed rule encountered some pushback, namely from some Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In April 2023, twenty members of Congress signed a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan voicing concerns about the proposed rule and asking for answers to specific questions to help them better understand the rule.
In their letter, the legislators expressed concern over designating OEMs as credit generators, a “lack of certainty over program design … that should be accomplished through legislation rather than regulation without the proper statutory authority,” and the fact that the suggested design of the eRIN program “inserts uncertainty into the transportation fuels market.”
On May 5, 2023, a group of stakeholders, including the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the American Biogas Council, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, and others, sent a letter to Administrator Regan voicing broad support for the inclusion of eRINs in the RFS. These stakeholders cited the “many environmental and economic benefits associated with eRINs” as reasons to implement eRINs in the final rule.
On the same day, a group of ten Democratic lawmakers, including Minnesota’s Representative Angie Craig, sent a letter to Administrator Regan expressing support for including waste-to-energy in the EPA’s proposed rule. The eRINs program would allow auto manufacturers (considered OEMs in the proposed rule) to generate credits from renewable electricity produced from qualifying feedstocks and to share those credits throughout the supply chain with renewable electricity generators and biomass feedstock producers.
EPA makes a decision
Following the public comment period and after numerous letters to EPA Administrator Regan, the EPA did not include the eRINs program in its RFS final rule for 2023, 2024, and 2025.
The final rule lays out the EPA’s rationale for its final decision, which is that the agency received a great deal of comments from supporters of the program as it was laid out in the proposed rule, supporters of the program who sought significant modifications to the proposed rule, and opponents of the eRINs pathway altogether. The EPA decided to take more time to consider those comments than the consent decree deadline for the other portions of the rule allowed. The agency also reiterated its reasoning for developing an eRINs program: increasing the use of renewable transportation fuels (a core objective of the RFS), reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing energy security.
Despite opting to leave the eRIN provisions out of the rule in question, the EPA stated that it would “continue to work on potential paths forward for the eRIN program” and “seek additional input from stakeholders to inform potential next steps.”
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