WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2015 - Two key members of the Obama administration addressed renewable fuel supporters Tuesday in Washington, but didn’t tip their hand about the upcoming release of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Instead, the officials spoke about the importance of the renewable fuels industry, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack touting its importance to the rural economy and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy saying it could be a tool in the fight against climate change.

Speaking to Growth Energy members early Wednesday afternoon, McCarthy stuck to the “ambitious but achievable” line that has been used by other EPA officials to explain their goals for the new RFS proposal for 2014, 2015, and 2016. The proposal is set to be released in two-and-a-half months.

“You can be assured that our goal is the congressional targets. That is where we are supposed to head, and we need to get it back on track now,” McCarthy said. “EPA’s proposal has to continue to build on that success and to spur ambitious yet achievable growth. That is where we are heading, and EPA is working hard to make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard Program is actually moving toward the levels Congress intended.”

With the very real possibility that the EPA could face lawsuits from either side of the debate depending on how the final proposal falls, McCarthy says she wants to make sure EPA’s final decision will hold up after litigation.

“I have to do that in a way that I think will pass muster,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is give you what you want and we fall flat when we get to the courts. (There’s) zero win then, and that’s what I’m trying to balance.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis declined to tell reporters whether or not Growth Energy would pursue litigation if the numbers were unchanged from May, when the agency proposed levels that were about 4.2 billion gallons below levels approved in 2007 by Congress.

“Obviously, we don’t think the administration got the rule right their first go-round, and while they might have improved it a little bit, they’re certainly not achieving the goals (McCarthy) and others have said, which is they want to break through the blend wall,” Buis said. “What they proposed tickles the blend wall.”

In his remarks Tuesday morning, Vilsack admitted there were issues dealing with renewable fuels governance that were beyond his purview, but the former Iowa governor said he wanted to do whatever he could to drive the industry ahead.

“We’ll continue to focus on the things that we can control at USDA,” Vilsack said. “I don’t control everything about this industry, but what I do control, we’re going to commit to this industry.”

McCarthy stressed that she wanted to get the renewable volume obligations finalized by November 30. That timeline was created when a consent decree was reached between EPA and the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.


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