Northeast Governors Sign B50 Bills into Law
Connecticut and Rhode Island adopt increasing biofuel requirements for heating oil
Higher biofuel blends are coming to some of the biggest heating oil markets in the Northeast U.S. Last month, the governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island signed legislation that will require heating oil sold in these states to contain increasingly greater blends of biodiesel or other advanced biofuels.
On Monday, July 12, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed HB6412, which requires all heating oil to be a “low-carbon fuel blend” containing at least 5 percent advanced biofuels by July 1, 2022; 10 percent by July 1, 2025; 15 percent by July 1, 2030; 20 percent by July 1, 2034; and 50 percent by July 1, 2035.
The bill defines a “low-carbon fuel blend” as “a fuel meeting the standards for advanced biofuels under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard Program, requiring a fifty percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, including, but not limited to, qualifying biodiesel meeting the most recent version of ASTM International designation D6751.” This may help open the door to renewable diesel and cellulosic biofuels such as ethyl levulinate.
The bill requires fuel retailers to disclose “approximate” percentages of low-carbon fuel blends sold to customers. It also requires Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), due later this year, to incorporate a lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from low-carbon liquid fuels, and requires the CES to evaluate the GHG reduction benefits of a Thermal Renewable Energy Credits Program. This could lead to the implementation of a statewide incentive program similar to Massachusetts’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
One day after Governor Lamont signed HB6412, on Tuesday, July 14, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee signed H5132A, which expands on the state’s existing biofuel laws. Currently, all heating oil in the state is required to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel. The new law expands the definition of biodiesel to include renewable diesel and lifts the requirement to 10 percent by July 1, 2023; 20 percent by July 1, 2025; and 50 percent by July 1, 2030.
Additionally, the law contains a provision limiting the amount of time the governor can suspend these requirements due to inadequate or unavailable fuel supplies. Such a suspension “shall not exceed three months,” according to the updated law.
Earlier this year, the New York State legislature passed a bill requiring all heating oil in the state to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel by July 1, 2022; 10 percent by July 1, 2025; and 20 percent by July 1, 2030. The state’s governor may sign the bill into law any time before the end of the year.
Industry Stakeholders Respond
The Connecticut Energy Marketers Association (CEMA) and Energy Marketers Association of Rhode Island (EMARI) advocated in favor of the new requirements for their respective states. Both organizations received support for these efforts from the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).
In a statement issued July 14, NBB cited the new laws as evidence of “the growing momentum of Bioheat® fuel” in the Northeast.
“The biodiesel and renewable diesel industries have forged a longtime partnership with the heating oil industry regarding the use of Bioheat fuel in oil-burning furnaces. That relationship continues to drive change,” said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen. “Together we’re driving demand for biodiesel and renewable diesel, while also delivering a carbon-reducing fuel solution that is not only better and cleaner than petroleum-based diesel, it is available now.”
“Legislators are finally taking note of the key carbon reduction advantages of biodiesel and renewable diesel, and we are able to see mandates come forward positioned to make a difference,” said NBB Director of State Governmental Affairs Floyd Vergara. “The momentum for biodiesel and renewable diesel as carbon-reduction strategies is continuing to grow and these policies help grow demand for our industries, but it wouldn’t be done without a team effort.”
NEFI, which does not advocate at the state level, nonetheless applauded its fellow industry stakeholders for the “years of hard work” that went into getting these bills across the finish line. “We commend our partner associations and their members in these states for their tireless advocacy on behalf of the industry,” said NEFI Vice President and Director of Government Affairs Jim Collura.
EMARI called the Rhode Island law “common-sense legislation” that “aligns with the evolution and the direction of our industry, including the Providence Resolution,” which calls for 40 percent emission reductions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. A heating fuel blend containing 50 percent biodiesel, renewable diesel or cellulosic biofuel should reduce emissions by at least 40 percent.
Despite their legislative victories, association leaders were quick to point out that the new laws do not diminish the threat of the “electrify everything” movement and ongoing attempts to regulate liquid heating fuel providers out of business.
Asked if Connecticut’s new law means that electrification is dead, CEMA President Chris Herb responded, “No, but it will prove to lawmakers that we have a solution other than the one that regulators, environmentalists, and utilities have duped them on. And ours does not cost ratepayers anything. To this point our pitch has been more theoretical; now we can show them what we can do.”