NBB Looks to Reverse Argentina Biodiesel Imports

The National Biodiesel Board is calling for the U.S. EPA to stay its recent decision to streamline Argentinian biodiesel imports to the U.S. under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) pending public review and comment.

In a petition filed March 30 with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, NBB cited the lack of public comment on the EPA decision and little transparency regarding the plans Argentinian producers can use to demonstrate compliance with the RFS. NBB’s petition for reconsideration and request for administrative stay can be found here on NBB’s website.

“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “As a result, we have asked the EPA to hold and reconsider its approval to allow a more open process with public comment and discussion.”

“Given the circumstances, we think this is a very reasonable request,” Steckel added. “The U.S. biodiesel industry is in a state of crisis right now as a result of EPA’s continued delays in finalizing RFS volumes. An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry’s troubles at the worst possible time.”

The EPA initially approved the application from Argentina’s biofuels association, CARBIO, on Jan. 27.

Typically under the RFS, foreign producers must map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels to ensure that it was grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2007—when the RFS was established.

The EPA’s January decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to instead rely on a survey plan being implemented by a third party to show their feedstocks comply with the regulations. The goal of the survey program is to ease the current map and track requirements applicable to planted crops and crop residues grown outside of the United States and Canada, resulting in a program that seems far less stringent and more difficult to verify.

Because the EPA did not provide an open process when it considered the application, the limited information provided in EPA’s approval document raises significant questions about whether soybean-oil biodiesel being imported from Argentina meets the renewable biomass requirement under the regulation. Many of the soybeans processed into soybean oil in Argentina come from Uruguay, Peru, Brazil and other countries. Given the complex international trade involved and the apparent gaps in the program as outlined in EPA’s approval document, the EPA will have little ability to verify the survey plans proposed by Argentinian producers, even with the third-party surveyor’s limited reviews.

Argentina would be the first country to use a survey approach under the RFS. Canada and the U.S. operate under an aggregate approach in which feedstock is approved so long as the aggregate amount of agricultural land in each country does not grow