11.19.19

Rounds and Thune Join Colleagues to Call on EPA to Provide Clarity on Biogenic Carbon Emissions

WASHINGTON-- U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) today joined a number of their colleagues to send a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting clarity on the regulatory treatment of biogenic carbon emissions produced from feedstocks such as corn and soybeans. This clarity will remove an obstacle to investment in rural America.

 

“Rural communities in our states see the economic and environmental potential that a growing U.S. bioeconomy offers,” wrote the senators. “EPA’s treatment of biogenic carbon emissions from agricultural processing facilities, however, is a significant barrier to that growth. We have concerns that regulatory uncertainty is stalling significant potential investment in rural America. That investment would create jobs and draw resources to create new low-carbon products and materials.”

 

Multiple scientific studies have stated that the carbon dioxide absorbed during growth and photosynthesis by renewable agricultural feedstocks is more or less equal to the carbon dioxide released during the processing, fermentation, or combustion of those same feedstocks within a one-year cycle. In other words, biogenic carbon emissions from such facilities are not contributing to long-term increases in atmospheric greenhouse gasses.

 

In addition to Rounds and Thune, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

 

Full text of the letter:

 

November 18, 2019

 

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.  20460

 

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

 

We write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide regulatory clarity on the de minimis nature of biogenic carbon emissions generated from the processing of agricultural feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, oilseeds and farm residues. We were encouraged that EPA's Unified Agenda issued in spring 2019 indicated the possibility of a rulemaking on this matter in October 2019.  We ask the EPA to act on this significant issue as soon as possible.

 

Rural communities in our states see the economic and environmental potential that a growing U.S. bioeconomy offers.  EPA’s treatment of biogenic carbon emissions from agricultural processing facilities, however, is a significant barrier to that growth.  We have concerns that regulatory uncertainty is stalling significant potential investment in rural America.  That investment would create jobs and draw resources to develop new lower-carbon products and materials, including food products, green chemicals, personal care products, compostable bioplastics, and much more. 

 

For almost a decade now, agricultural crop producers and processors have submitted multiple requests to EPA for clarity on the regulatory treatment of biogenic carbon emissions produced by the fermentation, combustion, or other processing of agricultural crops. 

 

Multiple scientific studies have stated that the carbon dioxide absorbed during growth and photosynthesis by renewable agricultural feedstocks, such as corn, soybeans, and oilseeds, and the carbon dioxide released during the processing, fermentation or combustion of those same feedstocks is more or less equal within a one-year cycle. This means biogenic carbon emissions from such facilities are not contributing to long-term increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.  Though EPA has made similar statements about the one-year life cycle of biogenic carbon emissions, the Agency has not proposed a de minimis standard nor has the Agency taken action to clarify the treatment of biogenic carbon emissions in the context of the Clean Air Act.

 

It is critical that rural Americans have the ability to tap into new growth opportunities when prospects in traditional markets are uncertain or declining.  Our states are ready and able to use our food and agriculture strengths to provide the nation and the world with an abundance of crop-derived consumer products and materials, as well as renewable biomass.   But federal policy is deterring investment in innovation and infrastructure.  As a comparison, in 2015, the European Union’s bioeconomy added over €620 billion ($688 billion USD) of value to their broader economy. In 2016, the U.S. bioeconomy was valued at $459 billion. This is EPA’s opportunity to clear a pathway for our rural communities to advance both economically and environmentally.  

 

We encourage the EPA to provide clarity on the de minimis nature of biogenic carbon emissions, and would appreciate an update on policy options the EPA is considering to address this issue.  Additionally, we would like to know how the EPA is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other agencies, and an anticipated timeline for action on the issue. We would appreciate an update on these items by December 1, 2019.

 

We thank you for your attention and look forward to hearing about progress towards regulatory clarity on biogenic carbon emissions.

 

Sincerely,

 

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