The Environmental Protection Agency is prepared to propose a boost in renewable fuel volumes for 2019, according to news reports confirmed by Agri-Pulse.

The agency is planning to propose an overall biofuels blending target of 19.88 billion gallons, which would be up 3 percent from the current-year target of 19.29 billion gallons. Of that total, 15 billion gallons would be in conventional biofuel – typically viewed as corn ethanol – and 4.88 billion gallons would be in advanced biofuel, nearly a 14 percent increase from this year’s target of 4.29 billion gallons.

Biomass-based diesel, or biodiesel, would see its target go from 2.1 billion gallons to 2.43 billion, a 15 percent increase, while the target for cellulosic biofuels would jump from 288 million gallons to 381 million.

The agency had planned an event in Missouri today featuring EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at which the proposed RVOs were expected to be announced, but that event has not occurred and EPA’s press office has not returned messages seeking comment on when the announcement might be made.

The delay, sources told Agri-Pulse, was caused by protests from the petroleum industry and concerns within EPA about a part of the proposal to reallocate gallons waived through small refinery exemptions that the renewable fuels industry has called illegal.

The issue of how to deal with the waived gallons was expected in the proposal, but sources and reports indicate that is no longer the case. Gallons waived from small refiners claiming economic hardship would have been shifted to refiners that could not make such a claim, essentially requiring those facilities to blend more renewable fuels.

Voices both inside and outside the EPA raised concerns about the legality of such a proposal. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement that the agency “must not take any steps that would limit the ability of small refineries to obtain hardship relief in the future. That includes restricting when they can apply for hardship relief or increasing the burdens on other refineries in the process.”  

For the biofuels sector, not addressing the reallocation issue in this RVO would be seen as a setback. That’s especially the case now after the administrator’s comments last week that it would be “the right thing to do” to reallocate those gallons “on a prospective basis.” As one source puts it, “Pruitt has painted himself into a corner.”

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