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EPA ruling could spur biodiesel plant growth

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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NORTH HAVERHILL — The Environmental Protection Agency's release of new renewable fuel volume standards last week has a local manufacturer making plans for expansion in the years to come. The EPA announced on Friday that it issued new rules that would increase the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into gasoline and diesel in the United States.

"The renewable fuel standards program, established by Congress in 2007, aims to increase the volumes of renewable biofuels that are used in our transportation system, helping the United States move away from fossil fuels to less carbon-intensive fuels," said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA on Friday. "When Congress passed the RES, it set annual targets for biofuel use that increase every year through 2022. Congress also gave EPA the authority to adjust those target volumes downward in certain situations."

While the new rules lower quotas set in 2007 in response to a decreased demand for gasoline over the last five years and other market conditions, it ultimately increases the amount of biofuels that will be produced over the next three years.

The rules will have a big impact on the largest biofuel producer in the Northeast where it brings a level of certainty to what had been an increasingly uncertain market. White Mountain Biodiesel in North Haverhill, established in 2007 by partners Wayne Presby and Robert Kuhsel, plans to make changes to the current plant as a result of the new volume increase.

"We're going to go through some expansion now that we have a better idea of what the future is going to bring, we're going to expand," Kuhsel said in an interview. "Hopefully this time next year, we will be up around the 10 million gallon mark." That, he said, would double their current production

Volume requirements released by the EPA, explained Kuhsel, are set to increase from 1.63 billion gallons of biofuels in 2014 to 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. This translates into how much biofuel the EPA is requiring petroleum companies to incorporate into their product.

White Mountain Biodiesel currently averages 4 million gallons of biodiesel in a year's time of production and employs around 23 people. Prior to the announcement of the updated volume regulations, Kuhsel stated that White Mountain Biodiesel had made some cutbacks in operation.

"We've tried to work through the economy at scale, just producing as much as we could out of the plant to reduce the pricing and we've cut everything right to the quick," Kuhsel said. "There was no expansion, there was no new technology. We were just working trying to make a paycheck."

Kuhsel said that the newly released regulations by the EPA has created job stability for those employed by White Mountain Biodiesel. Prior to this, no employees had been laid off, but came close to needing to be.

"It's the old story, you work a little hard for little less, but that's we all had to do," he said.

But now, Kuhsel expects job expansion in the future.

"A lot of job expansion," he said. "Not just floor workers, but I see concrete being poured, steel being erected. I see welders coming [in] for piping, electricians coming for wiring. Just in the trades alone, it's going to create a bunch of jobs."

Biodiesel is created using raw materials that are used cooking oil or waste vegetable oil. Biofuel plants, such as White Mountain

Biodiesel, utilize the used plant oil from soy, canola, or a blend, paying around 24 cents per pound of used cooking oil from the curators who collect it.

WMB purchases about three to four tankers of used cooking oil daily, which translates into about 4.4 million gallons annually.

"There is some waste when we get it in. There is a certain amount of moisture, solids involved there, as well as free fatty acids," said Kuhsel.

The used cooking oil used by White Mountain Biodiesel is acquired from restaurants local to the New England area including Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Presby, co-owner of White Mountain Biodiesel, stressed the importance of the biodiesel industry in an editorial published in the Concord Monitor, the day before the volume requirements were released.

"Biodiesel is different from ethanol," Presby said. "Biodiesel cuts carbon emissions by as much as 86 percent compared to petroleum diesel, and it's produced in almost every state. We also help farmers and landowners return fallow and unused open land to productivity through the planting and harvesting of oil seed crops. And most importantly we have no need for the massive expenditures in military dollars to ensure our access to foreign crude oil."

Danielle Drown may be contacted at

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Original Publication Date: June 3, 2015

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