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EcoEngineers Profile: Regulatory engagement work with Dane County

 

EcoEngineers’ Regulatory Engagement services and Dane County due diligence resulted in a large win for the renewable natural gas (RNG) industry.

 

We are happy to announce USEPA’s green light to allow the Dane County offloading station to accept biogas from multiple upstream facilities and inject RNG into the commercial natural gas pipeline. This type of hub-and-spoke model for RNG has never been approved before by the USEPA. This gives precedent for allowing multiple facilities and multiple RIN generators to use one offloading bay and one set of meters.

Dane County (City of Madison, Wisconsin) built a renewable natural gas (RNG) upgrading facility to convert their own landfill biomethane into RNG for dispensing as compressed natural gas vehicle fuel for use in Wisconsin. The County also built a state-of-the-art offloading station to take trucked biomethane from local dairies and inject it into the pipeline at the interconnect site. The County is ready and able to accept RNG offloading. Contact John Welch, Dane County’s Director of Waste & Renewables, at welch@countyofdane.com for more information.

 

 

EcoEngineers was contracted by Dane County to provide Regulatory Engagement, knowledge, and guidance ahead of USEPA pathway registration. During the process, EcoEngineers and the County had to answer the following questions:

  • Will the USEPA allow biogas that is trucked from multiple facilities and injected into the pipeline using the Dane County offloading station qualify for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)?
  • How will Dane County ensure there is no double counting of RINs?
  • What will the compliance documentation look like?
  • How will these facilities register with the USEPA?
  • Do the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) regulations allow for this scenario?

The Road to Approval

EcoEngineers conducted a face-to-face meeting with Dane County and the USEPA in 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the project to the regulation body and discuss the USEPA’s initial concerns with data security and the interconnect itself.

Continuous communication and interfacing with the County were performed during the development of the RIN Generation Protocol, which was submitted in May 2019 alongside RFS registration and an Engineering Review of the facility. Upon submission, the USEPA approved the RIN Generation protocol for the landfill biogas but still expressed concerns with data security at the interconnect and how Dane County would prevent any double counting of RINs from off-site sources of biogas.

Dane County is recognized at RNG 2019 in Dana Point, California. From John Welch: “Thank you (EcoEngineers) for all of your help in making this project a reality.”

Upon the USEPA’s request, Dane County and EcoEngineers collaboratively worked on a memo outlining data collection at the offloading station. The role of EcoEngineers was to provide a memo outline, identify key points to frame the argument (based on our experience and knowledge of the regulations), and task Dane County with filling in the details about their system. The memo was submitted in November 2019.

A conference call was set up with EcoEngineers, the County, and the USEPA in December 2019 to discuss the key parts of the memo. During the call, the USEPA agreed that their concerns about data security were addressed. However, the regulatory body brought up a new concern regarding liability: When Dane County is not the RIN generator for these facilities – but they are playing an integral role in the quantification of RINs — how will the County be held liable if there are any issues with RIN quantification?

EcoEngineers then guided the County in crafting another memo and protocol that would address these new concerns. We framed the argument in a way that showed the County’s role in these pathways is within the current regulation. The memo made the comparison that Dane County is playing the role of a typical “utility.” The memo was submitted in February 2020. USEPA reviewed it and agreed that the County can move forward with registering multiple facilities to use the interconnect in March 2020.

“We knew that if we could succeed in this project, we could have an impact across the state, across the nation and maybe across the globe because now it’s been done. And now we have technology and know-how that we want to share with other people,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

This was a two-year process that ultimately resulted in the approval of Dane County’s site to accept RNG from multiple off-site sources. Approval was granted by the USEPA only after the County demonstrated robust data security, data reconciliation, legal liability, and other measures to prevent double counting and uphold accurate RIN generation. This is a big win for the industry, but it is not a “blanket” approval for similar projects. For others in the industry who are looking to build similar hub-and-spoke models, USEPA will approve each project individually.

EcoEngineers’ Regulatory Engagement services

The clean energy market is a rapidly evolving sector, and Regulatory Engagement is the best strategy when your investment is high and the regulatory requirements are unclear. We can guide you on your engagement with regulators, help you understand regulatory risks, and assist you with determining your project’s viability.

EcoEngineers Regulatory Engagement service is about analysis, strategy, and engagement with the regulators to gain acceptance for a novel project ahead of registration. We do not guarantee acceptance, but we do promise that we will put together a strategy and argument to understand whether the regulatory agency is supportive or not.

We work collaboratively with the client to develop work products. We find the most success when the client takes responsibility for their project and represents the project with the USEPA (instead of EcoEngineers representing on their behalf).

Karyn Jones

EcoEngineers has completed at least 90 Regulatory Engagement projects since 2010. For more information about these services, contact Team Lead and Senior Regulatory Consultant Karyn Jones at kjones@ecoengineers.us or 515.985.1268.

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