Yesterday (November 30th) the EPA finalized renewable volume obligations for the RFS for 2018 and the RVO levels for 2019.
Final 2018 levels are 19.29 billion gallons of total renewable fuel, 15 billion of which is conventional biofuel and 4.29 billion of which is advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol. The final volumes are actually very close to those proposed in July.
Additionally, the EPA has finally issued a ruling regarding the obligated party petition. The petition has been pending while the agency sifted through comments from relevant parties on all sides of the issue.
You may recall that starting around June of 2016 some major refiners & other parties petitioned the EPA to redefine obligated parties under the RFS. The obligated party under the RFS as enacted is ““the entity that holds title to the gasoline or diesel fuel, immediately prior to the sale from the bulk transfer/terminal system… to a wholesaler, retailer or ultimate consumer.”
So basically refiners, blenders, and importers are the obligated parties in handling RIN compliance. The argument is that smaller marketers and blenders are subject to compliance costs and purchasing RIN credits in an arena where large refiners have an advantage, and non-blenders (retailers) have no exposure.
Supporters of changing the obligated party claim that the change would enable the market to more readily respond to the annual renewable volume obligation (RVO) standards, begin to address the structural constraints that EPA identified in its 2015 RFS rulemaking, and eliminate barriers that prevent RIN value from being passed through to consumers.
On the other side of things, retailers & related groups argue that non-manufacturers have no control over the composition of the petroleum products with which renewable fuels must be blended in order to be sold as motor fuels. Manufacturers and importers not only have control over the composition of the products they sell, but also the terms under which they sell them, and thus should remain the obligated parties.
The EPA ultimately denied the proposed change in obligated parties. Their reasoning stated was that the change would not result in improved effectiveness of the RFS as a whole, and would similarly not provide remedy to the major issue within the standard, which remains the issue of cellulosic ethanol and its (lack of) use. There would also be a lack of uniformity in who would be a stake holding and thus obligated party, which the agency felt would result in more confusion with compliance, rather than less.