WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2016 – After failing in recent years to meet mandated timelines for the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Environmental Protection Agency is vowing to get the program back on schedule.

“We don’t like missing deadlines at all,” Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday. “We are committed to having this program back on track and keep it there,” she said.

That would be good news for renewable fuel proponents and, quite frankly, opponents as well. Last fall, the EPA released three years worth of renewable volume obligations (RVOs) at once, setting blending levels for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and biomass-based diesel requirements for 2017. The delay in setting the RVOs angered all sides of the issue because of the uncertainty it caused, so much so that the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers had filed the lawsuit to force the release.

According to the law governing the RFS – the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 – the RVOs for 2017 are to be proposed by March 31 of this year and finalized by the end of November. 

The hearing also touched on the typical talking points on both sides of the RFS debate: proponents of repeal pushed for repeal; supporters of the mandate supported the mandate.

In his opening statement, committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said that “the world has changed” since the inception of the RFS, and in his view, “most of the rationale originally justifying the RFS has disappeared.”

“All we have left is an unstable program,” he added.

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California’s Barbara Boxer, the committee’s ranking Democrat, disagreed with Inhofe’s oft-stated desire to eliminate the RFS, pointing her criticism instead at those in charge of the rule, saying this year’s RVOs were “unnecessarily low.”

“The implementation of the RFS has not been perfect, but the law is sound,” Boxer said in her opening statement. “As I have said before, legislative changes to the RFS are not needed.”

When asked about the future of the RFS after congressional mandates expire in 2022, McCabe said she couldn’t speak for future EPA administrators, but she anticipated the program would remain in place and continue to issue new RVOs. Those new blending requirements would be based on agency calculations, not congressional figures.


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