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Jan 3 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the public comment period for the draft document titled, “Biofuels and the Environment: Third Triennial Report to Congress (External Review Draft).” The document was prepared by EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) and Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy. Comments must be received on or before March 6, 2023.

In 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) with the stated goals of “mov[ing] the United States toward greater energy independence and security [and] to increase the production of clean renewable fuels.” In accordance with these goals, EISA revised the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program, which was created under the 2005 Energy Policy Act and is administered by EPA, to increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. Section 204 of EISA directs EPA, in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, to assess and report triennially to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the RFS Program.

The first report to Congress (RtC1) was completed in 2011 and provided an assessment of the environmental and resource conservation impacts associated with increased biofuel production and use (EPA/600/R-10/183F). The overarching conclusions of this first report were: (1) the environmental impacts of increased biofuel production and use were likely negative but limited in impact; (2) there was a potential for both positive and negative impacts in the future; and (3) EISA goals for biofuels production could be achieved with minimal environmental impacts if best practices were used and if technologies advanced to facilitate the use of second-generation biofuel feedstocks (corn stover, perennial grasses, woody biomass, algae, and waste).

The second report to Congress (RtC2) was completed in 2018 and reaffirmed the overarching conclusions of the RtC1 (EPA/600/R-18/195). The RtC2 noted that the biofuel production and use conditions that led to the conclusions of the RtC1 had not materially changed, and that the production of biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks anticipated by both the EISA and the RtC1 had not materialized. Noting observed increases in acreage for corn and soybean production in the period prior to and following implementation of the RFS Program, the RtC2 concluded that the environmental and resource conservation impacts associated with land use change were likely due, at least in part, to increased biofuel production and use associated with the RFS Program. However, the RtC2 also concluded that further research was needed to assess the linkages between environmental impacts and either the biofuels market generally or the RFS Program specifically.

This RtC3 builds on the previous two reports and provides an update on the impacts to date of the RFS Program on the environment. This report assesses air, water, and soil quality; ecosystem health and biodiversity; and other effects. This third report also includes new analyses not previously included in the first and second reports. . This Third Triennial Report to Congress focuses on the dominant biofuel sources in the US: (1) domestic corn ethanol from corn starch, (2) domestic biodiesel from soybean oil, (3) domestic biodiesel from fats, oils, and greases (FOGs), and (4) imported ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane. The report was developed in close collaboration with USDA, DOE, and USGS.
 
Biofuels and the Environment: Third Triennial Report to Congress (External Review Draft): https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/biofuels/recordisplay.cfm?deid=353055
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