Biofuel groups comment on Washington’s proposed CFS rule

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A public comment period on Washington’s proposed Clean Fuel Standard ended August 31. The program aims to encourage fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 20 percent by 2038.

Washington Governor Ray Inslee signed a bill into law in May 2021 that would enshrine the CFS into law. The law directs the Washington Department of Ecology to notify rules and start the program by January 1, 2023. On July 18, the agency published a proposed rule to implement the CFS. A public comment period on the proposed rule was open until August 31.

The CFS offers fuel suppliers multiple options to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements required by the program, including improving the efficiency of their fuel production processes, manufacturing and/or blending low-carbon fuels into the fuel they sell or through purchase generated from credits from low-carbon fuel manufacturers and from incentive programs to improve zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure across the state.

The CFS includes several provisions to expand the supply of clean fuels produced within the state, including a required 15 percent net increase in the state’s production of liquid biofuels. The program also requires completion of permitting for a new or expanded biofuel production facility with an annual capacity of at least 60 million gallons before carbon intensity is reduced above 10 percent.

A variety of biofuel producers and trade groups submitted comments on the proposed rule, including Growth Energy, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, the Renewable Fuels Association, Neste, Poet, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Clean Fuels Alliance America.

Growth Energy is asking the Washington Department of Ecology to consider the important role biofuels play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The group also urges the department to correct the GREET model to accurately reflect updated land use science, credit farmers for field-based agricultural practices, and include generation of credits from carbon capture. “We continue to urge the Department to develop clear policies that recognize the realities of today’s fuel market and examine how domestic biofuels can directly contribute to reducing greenhouse gases,” wrote Chris Bliley, Growth Energy’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs. “In fact, a recent study by Air Improvement Resources found that if Washington switched fully to E15, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 334,000 tons per year — the equivalent of removing 73,000 cars per year.”

The RNG coalition outlined several changes to the proposal that would better encourage the use of renewable natural gas (RNG). While the current draft rule limits the use of flexible RNG GO accounting to cases where the end-use of RNG is a natural gas vehicle or as a feedstock for hydrogen production, the RNG Coalition calls on the Department to allow the use of RNG in all applications that require the Lowering the CO2 intensity of transport fuels. The group offers several examples including the use of RNG as a feedstock for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and as a fuel to decarbonize power generation.

The RFA requests the department to ensure that the land use change (LUC) values ​​used in the modeling are consistent with updated analytical and empirical data. “The Argonne GREET model is the basis for life cycle analysis in the CFP, so it is consistent to use Argonne GREET for land use change values ​​as well,” the RFA wrote. “Argonne regularly (usually annually) updates its model to incorporate the best scientific evidence on all variables. In addition, in the interest of technology neutrality and given the rapid growth of battery electric vehicles, the land use impacts of mineral extraction for battery production as well as the land use impacts of expanded wind and solar power generation should also be assessed.”

In his comments, Neste encourages the department to maintain a technology-neutral policy and its science-based approach in setting carbon intensity (CI) standards. “This will provide Washington consumers with confidence that available fuels have accurate CI values ​​and that all advanced renewable fuels will be made available more quickly and at the lowest possible cost,” the company wrote. Neste also expressed concern that the proposal will delay implementation of the original Tier 2 path requests until July 1, 2025. Tier 2 fuels include Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). “Neste calls on Ecology to consider establishing reasonable fees to be paid by industry stakeholders to cover costs associated with Ecology’s path review services and the sale of all available low-carbon fuels in Washington to enable the CFP program to begin on January 1, 2023,” the company wrote in its comments. “The federal government’s grand challenge of producing 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030 would be jeopardized by government programs delaying the introduction of drop-in fuels, which can achieve immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the hard-to-decarbonize aviation sector. As a US center for aerospace innovation and manufacturing, Washington should lead the decarbonization of commercial aviation by making all SAFs available to the airline industry beginning January 1, 2023.

Poet encourages the Department to address several issues it identified in the proposed rule, including adopting an indirect land-use change value for corn ethanol that accurately reflects the latest scientific research and accurately accounts for low-carbon process energy and practices, and expands methane avoidance credits for methane sources beyond of pigs and manure and award CI reduction credits for carbon dioxide captured and used in commercial applications, resulting in a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. “At the very least, it should ensure that Tier 2 pathways are more than just a dead letter and serve as a viable route to the recognition of innovative, greenhouse gas-reducing production methods,” Poet wrote.

BIO challenges the DOE to use updated indirect land-use change science for corn, canola, soybean and other plant-based biofuels. The group also calls on the ministry to include corn, canola, timber and sugar beet producers in the development of the CFP to ensure that the program takes into account low-carbon farming practices such as no-till when calculating respective CI scores.

Clean Fuels recommends that the department add wording to the proposed rule that clarifies that a certified Tier 2 path should be adopted for an existing facility before 2025 if that facility is expanded. The group also encourages the department to avoid charging credit generators under the CFS. “The Washington CFS will be the only carbon market to charge a fee to participate, which could create a competitive imbalance. Even the modest fees levied on renewable fuel producers (covering 20-30 percent of program costs) could stifle the program’s success,” Clean Fuels wrote. “Smaller producers could avoid Washington’s program because of the fee and instead choose to sell fuel in the British Columbia, California and Oregon markets, which would have lower costs and potentially higher-value credits.”

More information, including full copies of the public comments submitted, is available on the Washington Department of Ecology website.

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