The Environmental Protection Agency is extending the 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard compliance deadline for small refineries as well as the 2020, 2021 and 2022 deadlines for all companies subject to biofuel usage mandates. 

The agency said the final extensions, both for compliance years 2019-2022 and for 2023 and beyond, “will help ensure that obligated parties are positioned to fully comply with their RFS obligations by ensuring that each year’s compliance deadline falls after the standards for the subsequent compliance year are known.”

Its approach for years 2023 and beyond “will also avoid EPA having to repeatedly extend compliance deadlines for obligated parties should promulgation of the subsequent year’s standards be delayed,” EPA said.

The announcement drew criticism from the biofuels industry, which has dealt with delayed compliance deadlines frequently in the past. 

“With this final rule, EPA just gave itself the power to perpetually delay implementation of yearly RFS blending requirements and continually kick the can down the road on compliance deadlines,” Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said.

“This is not what Congress intended, and this approach could exacerbate the uncertainty and instability around RFS implementation that was created by the past administration.”

And Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said “delaying compliance deadlines is completely contradictory to efforts to lower rising gas prices and increase the use of cleaner, lower-carbon fuels. By continuing to delay compliance deadlines, EPA is creating uncertainty in the marketplace and stunting the blending of biofuel needed to decarbonize transportation as the Renewable Fuel Standard intended."

“It is vital for EPA to get the RFS back on track,” Skor said. “EPA can start by making needed changes to its proposed cuts to the 2020 RVOs and low volumes for 2021. Importantly, EPA needs to swiftly finalize the proposed volumes for 2022.” 

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Responding to comments on the new approach, EPA noted in the final rule released Friday that biofuels industry groups believe a system for automatic extensions would discourage EPA from issuing standards for future years on time. 

But the agency decided that “having regulations in place that remove one source of uncertainty in the RFS program, were EPA to ever again be late in promulgating standards, is in the best interest of our implementation of the program.”

Setting up a schedule for future compliance deadlines “will render future rulemakings like this one to extend compliance deadlines unnecessary and prevent placing an unnecessary burden on obligated parties to prepare, submit, and then possibly retract and revise compliance reports for deadlines that were later extended,” EPA said.

For small refineries, defined as those “with an average crude oil input no greater than 75,000 barrels per day,” the 2019 RFS compliance deadline “will be the next quarterly reporting deadline after the effective date of the 2021 RFS standards (typically 60 days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register),” EPA said.

The deadlines for all obligated parties for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 compliance years are as follows, EPA said:

  • The 2020 compliance deadline will be the next quarterly reporting deadline after the 2019 compliance deadline for small refineries;
  • The 2021 compliance deadline will be the next quarterly reporting deadline after the 2020 compliance deadline; and
  • The 2022 compliance deadline will be the next quarterly reporting deadline after either the effective date of the 2023 RFS standards or the 2021 compliance deadline, whichever is later.

In addition, EPA said it is “extending the associated attest engagement reporting deadlines to the next June 1 annual attest engagement reporting deadline after the applicable 2019–2022 compliance deadline.”

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