BIO Comments on CARB Draft Chapter on Environmental Impacts




SEPTEMBER 12, 2011

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is pleased to comment on the Draft chapter on Environmental Impacts (“the draft chapter”). BIO is the world’s largest biotechnology organization, with more than 1,100 member companies worldwide.  BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section represents over 85 leading companies in the production of conventional and advanced biofuels and other sustainable solutions to energy and climate change.  BIO also represents the leaders in developing new crop technologies for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. 

As expressed in previous comments, BIO and its member companies commend the Board for its openness, inclusiveness and transparency throughout the LCFS rulemaking process.  Further, BIO supports California’s efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels and believes that biofuels can and must contribute significantly to this important objective.

The Draft Chapter Disproportionally Focuses on the Impacts of Biofuels

BIO is pleased that the staff of the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) have recognized the vital role advanced biofuels can play in satisfying the requirements of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (“LCFS”).  However, BIO and its members are concerned that the draft chapter places disproportional emphasis on biofuels.  For instance, why isn’t CARB staff placing the same or similar rigor on analyzing the environmental impacts for other types of alternatives, such as power generation?

There are several places in the draft chapter that fail to account for impacts from other alternative fuels that will be produced and consumed to meet LCFS compliance.  For example, on page three, CARB staff discuss the results of their health risk assessment to estimate the potential cancer risk from a biorefinery.  In fairness and to fully evaluate health risks associated with the production of fuels that will be used for LCFS compliance, CARB staff should perform and take into account similar health risks associated with facilities used to produce other types of alternative fuels, such as power generation.

On page two, CARB staff states that they “assumed that any additional electricity use would be offset by the switch to a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard and off-peak charging.”  Does CARB staff also assume that there will be no additional impacts from additional electrical use, including lifecycle and land-use change emissions from even the cleanest power generation projects?

In addition, in the “Recommendations” section of the draft chapter under the subheading “Considerations for Highly Impacted Communities”, CARB staff suggest that “[a]ny environmental analysis for a new or expanding biorefinery project should include consideration of these cumulative impacts, public vetting of those impacts, and recommendations for mitigation of any significant impacts.” If new or expanding biorefinery projects are subject to this consideration and rigorous assessment, so should new or expanding facilities producing other alternative fuels for LCFS compliance.

The Draft Chapter Excludes Several Types of Advanced Biofuels That Will be Used for LCFS Compliance


            The draft chapter does not take into account several types of advanced biofuels that could be available on the California market to consumers in the State.  For example, on page two under the subheading “Summary of the 2009 Environmental Analysis,” CARB staff estimate ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel facilities that could be operational in the State by 2020.  But, what about other advanced biofuels and biofuel facilities that could also be operational in the State in that same time period?  These may include renewable hydrocarbons, biobutanol, algae-based biofuels, solar fuels, waste derived fuels, among others. 

            Similarly, on page nine of the draft chapter, CARB staff discuss “the types of biofuels that could potentially be produced at a California biorefinery” which include “ethanol from grains, sugarcane, and cellulose; biodiesel; renewable diesel; biogas; hydrogen; and biogasoline.”  This list does not fully represent the “the types of biofuels that could potentially be produced at a California biorefinery.”  That list should include other advanced biofuels, including renewable hydrocarbons, biobutanol, algae-based biofuels, solar fuels, and waste derived fuels.

There is No Need for More Stringent Requirements

            CARB staff assert throughout the draft chapter that their analysis and recommendations are based on the “most current stringent emission limits for process equipment used at biorefineries and options available to mitigate mobile source emissions associated with biorefineries…"[1]  Existing state and federal law is already stringent and sufficient to effectuate significantly reduced air emissions.  BIO recommends that CARB focus on enforcement of these existing laws and regulations and avoid putting in place overly burdensome and potentially competing provisions that could unintentionally prevent alternative fuel producers from doing business in California for economic reasons.  Should CARB choose to put new air emissions laws and regulations in place, it should do so for all fuels, including those associated with electrical generation facilities, to ensure a level playing field.

BIO Comments on Sustainability and the LCFS

            Section D of the draft chapter includes a discussion and recommendations on “[s]ustainability and the LCFS.”  BIO recently submitted written comments to CARB staff on this topic and have attached them to these comments.  Please see Appendix A for BIO’s comments on the DRAFT document by California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Sustainability Working Group on LCFS Sustainability Principles, Criteria, Indicators for Principles 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Thank you for considering these comments.


Brent Erickson

Executive Vice President, Industrial and Environmental Section

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)

[1] See page 3 and 11.