Pending Biofuel-Related Bills in Congress May 2013

In the first few months of the U.S. 113th  Congress there have been a number of bills introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate that, if enacted, might affect the development of ethanol or other renewable fuels. The ones of most potential concern are those, all introduced by Republicans, that are meant to repeal or curtail existing programs that currently benefit the renewable fuels industry. I’ve written about several of these before, in previous Biofuel Policy Watch blog entries, but I thought it would be useful to summarize them here in a single place. There are also a number of bills pending in several state legislatures that would adversely affect development of ethanol or other biofuels, notably in Florida, New Hampshire and Maine, as well as helpful legislation in other states such as Minnesota. Previous entries of Biofuel Policy Watch have described these bills and their status.

Please bear in mind that this summary is a snapshot in time, and that new bills are likely to be introduced over time in both houses of the U.S. Congress. Please also bear in mind that these are all early legislative proposals, only one of which has progressed any farther than being referred to the appropriate committee. In most cases the committee has not yet held hearings or begun to consider any of these bills. Not only are they all at such an early stage, but it is safe to say that none of them stand any serious chance of passage in today’s divided political climate: while it is possible that some of the bills introduced in the House may well pass that Republican-controlled chamber, it seems highly unlikely that any would garner enough Democratic support to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama (or that an Obama veto could be overridden in both houses). So, while these bills are a useful representation of where Congressional Republican sentiment lies regarding renewable fuels, it is very hard to see that any of these bills have any chance of becoming law.

In this summary, I’ve grouped the bills according to the policies they would introduce, or more appropriately which existing policies they would overturn or modify. All the hyperlinks below are links to www.govtrack.us, which is one of several sites at which you can find information on pending Congressional legislation. (Note: the bracketed information identifies each primary bill sponsor by party, state, and for members of the House, their congressional district).

Renewable Fuel Standard

H.R. 550: Phantom Fuel Reform Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep. Gregg Harper [R-MS3]
Introduced: February 6, 2013, Referred to Committee: February 6, 2013
This bill is meant to address oil industry concerns over the way the EPA sets the annual volume mandate for cellulosic biofuels, since prior to this year there has been essentially no production of fuels qualifying as cellulosic fuels under the RFS. The bill would require the Energy Information Administration in each year to calculate the average monthly production of cellulosic fuels in all production plants, and then to apply that monthly average to all plants expected to be in production in the subsequent year, and for EPA to set the subsequent year’s cellulosic mandate at the exact level that is calculated. The bill would also require that, in any year in which the EPA reduces the applicable volume of cellulosic biofuel from the levels specified in the original RFS2 legislation, it must also reduce the applicable volume of renewable fuel and advanced biofuels required by the same amount. The renewable fuels industry opposes such an approach, because it views the law’s current requirement for escalating mandates as providing an incentive for growth that would not be provided if each year’s mandate were set at the exact level of production of the preceding year. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, February 26, 2013

S. 251: Phantom Fuel Reform Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Flake [R-AZ]
Introduced: February 7, 2013, Referred to Committee: February 7, 2013
This is the companion bill to H.R. 550, with essentially identical provisions. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, February 26, 2013

H.R. 796: To require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to use the commercially available volume of cellulosic biofuel in setting requirements for the renewable fuel program under the Clean Air Act, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner [R-WI5]
Introduced: February 15, 2013, Referred to Committee: February 15, 2013
Like H.R. 550 and S. 251, this bill would require EPA to base its annual cellulosic fuel volume mandates on actual production levels in the prior year, and to make corresponding reductions to the mandated volumes of renewable fuel and advanced biofuels. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, February 26, 2013

H.R. 1461: Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R-VA6]
Introduced: April 10, 2013, Referred to Committee: April 10, 2013
This bill would simply repeal the sections of the Clean Air Act that created the Renewable Fuel Standard. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, April 18, 2013

H.R. 1462: RFS Reform Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R-VA6]
Introduced: April 10, 2013, Referred to Committee: April 10, 2013
This bill would revise the Renewable Fuel Standard in several ways: first, to reduce the annual volume mandates so that there would be no specified volume required for the category of “renewable fuels” that is today largely met by cornstarch-based ethanol; second to require that the annual mandates for cellulosic biofuel be based on actual production levels; and third, to prohibit EPA from approving for use in the U.S. any ethanol blend of greater than 10%, and  to rescind any waivers or approvals the agency has already granted for E15 or other mid-level blends. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, April 18, 2013.

H.R. 1469: Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act
Sponsor: Rep. Michael Burgess [R-TX26]
Introduced: April 10, 2013, Referred to Committee: April 10, 2013
According to a press release from the bill’s sponsor Rep. Burgess, the intent of this bill is to prohibit EPA from granting approvals for ethanol blends greater than 10% and to revoke any previously-granted waivers allowing such blends. However, the bill would also radically change the RFS by simplifying the definitions, removing the four current categories of fuels under the RFS, and instituting a single volume mandate for all renewable fuel, for all years, at 7.5 billion gallons. Presumably the point of this latter provision is that, by lowering the annual mandate to well below current production levels, the need for the nation’s gasoline pool to exceed 10% ethanol would disappear (i.e., essentially eliminating the “blend wall”).

H.R. 1482: Renewable Fuel Standard Amendments Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Womack [R-AR3]
Introduced: April 10, 2013, Referred to Committee: April 10, 2013
The provisions of this bill are nearly identical to one portion of the provisions of H.R. 1462, of which Rep. Womack is a cosponsor: like H.R. 1462, this bill would reduce the annual volume mandates so that there would be no specified volume required for the category called “renewable fuels” that is today largely met by cornstarch-based ethanol. This bill does not contain the other provisions of H.R. 1462. Since 1462 and 1482 were introduced on the same day by an overlapping set of cosponsors, presumably the cosponsors will elect to move forward with 1462, the broader based bill, thus superseding 1482, but that remains to be seen.

Ethanol Policies

H.R. 875: To provide for a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. James Sensenbrenner [R-WI5]
Introduced: February 27, 2013,  Reported by Committee: April 11, 2013
This bill would repeal EPA’s granted waivers for E15, and would also require EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive assessment of available research on E15 and all “mid-level” ethanol blends. The bill would prohibit EPA from granting additional E15 waivers until the results of the NAS study were submitted to Congress. This bill was the subject of a hearing held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment on February 26, 2013, which was noteworthy because all the witnesses at this hearing represented groups critical of EPA’s E15 decision, with no witnesses from the renewable fuel industry. After this hearing, on April 11, 2013 the full Committee reported the bill out for action by the full House, which has not taken place as of this writing.  First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, March 19, 2013

H.R. 1214: Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus [R-IL15]
Introduced: March 15, 2013, Referred to Committee: March 15, 2013
This bill is meant to address a concern that has been frequently voiced since EPA’s approval of E15 ethanol/gasoline blends. E15 is not approved for all vehicles out of concerns that engines of older cars may be damaged, and furthermore many critics believe that this blend will even be harmful to engines in the late-model vehicles for which use is approved. There are also concerns about the compatibility of E15 and other mid-level ethanol blends with infrastructure in place at gas stations (e.g. storage tanks, dispenser pumps). The goal of the bill is to ensure that service station owners, certain engine manufacturers and fuel producers are not held liable if damage or other liability results from the misuse of an EPA-approved fuel. Specifically, the bill would:  exempt service stations from liability under EPA’s waste disposal laws and otherwise for damages caused by the incompatibility of underground storage tanks or dispensing equipment with E15 or other fuels;  exempt service station owners from liability if a self-service gasoline purchaser uses ethanol blends in vehicles for which such blends are not improved, or if such action voids the warranty for the customer’s vehicle, except in the cases where the service station has not complied with EPA-approved misfueling requirements or in the case of intentional misfueling;  relieve engine manufacturers, renewable fuel developers and others from any liability resulting from an individual’s misfueling.

H.R. 1462: RFS Reform Act of 2013
H.R. 1469: Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act
These two bills, discussed in detail above, would each limit EPA’s ability to approve ethanol blends of greater than 10%, while also amending certain aspects of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

S. 344: A bill to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from approving the introduction into commerce of gasoline that contains greater than 10-volume-percent ethanol, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker [R-MS]
Introduced: February 14, 2013, Referred to Committee: February 14, 2013
This bill would prevent EPA from approving ethanol blends of greater than 10%, and would overturn EPA’s prior approvals of E15 blends. It would accomplish similar goals as H.R. 875, as discussed above. First discussed in Biofuel Policy Watch, February 26, 2013

Tax Subsidies

H.R. 259: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Pompeo [R-KS4]
Introduced: January 15, 2013, Referred to Committee: January 15, 2013
This bill would repeal a number of existing tax credits for renewable fuels, including the excise tax credits for alcohol fuel, biodiesel, and alternative fuel mixtures; the tax credits for the purchase of alternative motor vehicles and new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles; the alternative fuel vehicle refueling property tax credit; the income tax credits for alcohol, biodiesel, and renewable diesel used as fuel; the tax credit for carbon dioxide sequestration; and others.

H.R. 1569: New Fair Deal Busting America’s Rigid Outdated & Needless Subsidies Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Pompeo [R-KS4]
Introduced: April 15, 2013, Referred to Committee: April 15, 2013
This bill is identical to H.R. 259 except that it contains a different list of cosponsors. Presumably this bill would supersede H.R. 259, both of which have been referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

D. Glass Associates, Inc. is a consulting company specializing in government and regulatory affairs support for renewable fuels and industrial biotechnology. David Glass, Ph.D. is a veteran of over thirty years in the biotechnology industry, with expertise in industrial biotechnology regulatory affairs, U.S. and international renewable fuels regulation, patents, technology licensing, and market and technology assessments. Dr. Glass also serves as director of regulatory affairs for Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. More information on D. Glass Associates’ regulatory affairs consulting capabilities, and copies of some of Dr. Glass’s prior presentations on biofuels and biotechnology regulation, are available at www.slideshare.net/djglass99 and at www.dglassassociates.com. The views expressed in this blog are those of Dr. Glass and D. Glass Associates and do not represent the views of Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. or any other organization with which Dr. Glass is affiliated. Please visit our other blog, Biofuel Policy Watch.

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One thought on “Pending Biofuel-Related Bills in Congress May 2013

  1. E15 and E85 Ethanol News: State Legislative Update, May 23, 2013 – Biofuel Policy Watch

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