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Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC Clean Air Act Settlement

(Washington, DC - October 4, 2016)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced a settlement with Iowa-based Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC that resolves allegations that the company entered into a series of transactions in 2011, that resulted in the generation of more than 36 million invalid renewable fuel credits. Western Dubuque will pay a civil penalty of $6 million.

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Overview of Company

Western Dubuque owns and operates a 30 million gallon biodiesel plant located in Farley, Iowa. The company was formed in 2005 by a group of eastern Iowa farmers and business people. 

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Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program

The original Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS1) was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and established the first renewable fuel volume mandate in the United States. RFS1 required 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended into gasoline by 2012.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 expanded the program, which became known as the RFS2 program. The RFS2 program reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by setting a national mandate for renewable fuels that meet specific GHG emissions reduction standards. The RFS2 regulations created a market based program to assure that the national mandate will be met.

Renewable fuel producers and importers generate renewable fuel credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs, for each gallon of renewable fuel that meets the GHG emissions reduction standards. The program requires refiners and importers, known as obligated parties, to retire a specific number of RINs each year based on the amount of petroleum fuel that they produce and import.

The RFS program was designed to reduce GHG emissions by 138 million metric tons when fully implemented in 2022. The reductions would be equivalent to taking about 27 million vehicles off the road. (See: section on "Greenhouse Gas Emissions" in EPA Finalizes Regulations for the National Renewable Fuel Standard Program for 2010 and Beyond.)

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The settlement resolves an enforcement action by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against Western Dubuque for violations of the RFS2 regulations. The EPA and the DOJ allege that in 2011, Western Dubuque entered into a series of transactions with NGL Crude Logistics, LLC (NGL), then known as Gavilon LLC, that resulted in the generation of more than 36 million invalid biomass-based diesel RINs.

The allegations were as follows:  NGL purchased biodiesel with RINs from other companies, separated and sold the RINs to third parties, and then sold the biodiesel to Western Dubuque as a methyl ester "feedstock." Methyl esters are a class of chemical compounds that include, but are not limited to, biodiesel.

Western Dubuque then reprocessed this "feedstock" and generated a second set of RINs for the reprocessed fuel. Western Dubuque sold all of the biodiesel it produced from NGL’s “feedstock” and RINs it generated in 2011 to NGL. The EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice also allege that Western Dubuque violated a number of RFS2 prohibited acts because the RINs it generated were not produced using a qualifying feedstock or qualifying process.

NGL is not a part of this settlement. The EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against NGL, and asked the court to require NGL to retire 36 million biomass-based diesel RINs to offset the harm caused by its alledged violations, and to pay a substantial civil penalty.  On September 27, 2018, the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with NGL that required the company to pay a civil penalty of $25 million and retire 36 million biomass-based diesel RINs.

See: the NGL Crude Logistics, LLC case.

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The EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a settlement agreement with NGL on September 27, 2018, that required NGL to retire 36 million biomass-based diesel RINs to offset the harm caused by its alleged violations.

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Pollutant Impacts

Biomass-based diesel RINs represent renewable fuel that displaces petroleum diesel fuel and achieves GHG emissions reductions. When two RINs are generated for the same volume of fuel, the invalid RINs distort the actual GHG emissions achieved. This has a negative impact on the goals of the RFS program and the integrity of the RIN market.

The EPA estimates that the illegal generation of RINs in this case resulted in excess greenhouse gas emissions of about 151,319 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. 

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Health and Environmental Benefits

In order to ensure the GHG emissions reductions from the RFS program are achieved, and to protect the program's integrity and maintain a level playing field for regulated companies, EPA pursues enforcement actions against renewable fuel producers and other parties involved in the generation of invalid RINs.

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Civil Penalty

Western Dubuque will pay a civil penalty of $6 million. The penalty is based, in part, on the company’s limited ability to pay a larger penalty and replace RINs to offset the harm caused by the alleged violation.

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Comment Period

The comment period for this settlement agreement has closed.  

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For More Information, Contact:

Jeffrey A. Kodish
Air Enforcement Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1595 Wynkoop Street (8MSU)
Denver, CO  80202-1129

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