EPA official says agency is working hard on RFS, but issue is complex

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



FORT WORTH, TEXAS, Jan. 21, 2015 - An Environmental Protection Agency official says agency employees charged with rule-making for the Renewable Fuels Standard every year are working hard to implement changes, but the growing complexity of the statute is slowing their progress.

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Speaking to members of the National Biodiesel Board at their annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas, EPA Senior Policy Adviser Paul Argyropoulos said a rule covering Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) should be coming from the agency in the coming months.

“The most recent indication from the agency -- an official in the agency - was that we're going to be doing this this spring,” Argyropoulos said. “I'll stick with that, because the administrator [Gina McCarthy] said that. That certainly is the timeline that people should expect..."

“What that something is is going to be a complete mystery to everybody because I can't say anything and I certainly don't want to move any markets,” he said.

Renewable fuel advocates have been critical of the agency's lapse in issuing RVOs for 2014 and 2015, but Argyropoulos said the delay certainly isn't for lack of trying. He said the team assigned to the RVOs has been working “tirelessly,” but the difficulty of complying with the RFS statute and controversial interpretation of its language continues to be an issue for EPA employees.

“We've had a lot going on in (Washington, D.C.), although not that anybody would know about it,” Argyropoulos said. “These are not easy issues . . . The specifics that are provided in the act itself and how we apply those has gotten more and more controversial, and dealing with those issues has unfortunately over the last couple of years -- but more specifically this past year -- become very very difficult for us to address.”

While there was some agreement among convention panelists in other breakout sessions that EPA's employees have been diligent on the issue, others speaking at the convention were not convinced. Byron Dorgan said he helped write the RFS during his 16 years as a Democratic senator from North Dakota, and he struggles to understand EPA's delay.

“It suggests to me that there is not a minimum threshold for embarrassment,” said Dorgan, who now serves as a senior fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center  “This is really pretty unbelievable.”

No matter their level of embarrassment, Argyropoulos said EPA employees will keep working on the “formidable task” of issuing RVO figures for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

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