The National Biodiesel Board on Tuesday said it had filed a petition with U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy over the agency's January decision to allow Argentine biodiesel imports under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
According to NBB, the EPA's decision provided little opportunity for the public to comment and limited transparency about how Argentinian producers will comply with RFS regulations.
The EPA change allows Argentina to use an alternate tracking method for feedstocks used to produce biofuel. Generally, feedstocks used under the RFS are required to be grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 18, 2007, an effort to prevent deforestation, NBB said earlier this year.
While foreign producers have been required to map and track batches of feedstocks used to produce biofuel, the EPA's change allows a survey plan instead.
"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."
Steckel said the group believes the request is reasonable, in that the U.S. biodiesel industry is in flux due to current lack of RFS volume requirements. The EPA is more than two years late in establishing volumes under the RFS after not releasing a requirement for 2014 and 2015.
"An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry's troubles at the worst possible time," Steckel said.
The EPA initially approved the application from Argentina's biofuels association, CARBIO, on Jan. 27.
Because the EPA did not provide an open process when it considered Argentina's surveying method application, NBB said its uncertain if soybean-oil biodiesel being imported from Argentina meets the renewable biomass requirement.
NBB suggested EPA will have difficulty verifying the survey plans proposed, and 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.
NBB estimates that up to 600 million gallons of Argentinian biodiesel could enter the U.S. next year as a result of the change, particularly after the European Union blocked Argentinian biodiesel in 2013 after the country exported some 450 million gallons to the EU in 2012. In 2014, the entire U.S. biodiesel market was about 1.75 billion gallons.
In addition to the new U.S. survey rules, NBB said Argentina supports its domestic biodiesel program with a "Differential Export Tax" program that allows Argentinian biodiesel to undercut domestic prices.