WASHINGTON, March 24, 2016 – Now that EPA officials have vowed to get the RFS back on a statutory schedule, a group of lawmakers and industry stakeholders want them to get back to proposing statutory blending levels as well.
Earlier this week, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley and Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar led a bipartisan group of 19 senators in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The letter, signed by eight Republicans and 11 Democrats, said the EPA should “reverse course and release a rule this year that follows congressional intent.“The forthcoming proposal to set blending targets for 2017 is the EPA’s chance to fulfill the commitment that you and Assistant Administrator (Janet) McCabe made to get the program back on track,” the letter continued. “We hope you take this opportunity.”
Last year, the EPA finalized Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the RFS for the first time since the 2013 RVO. The announcement set blending requirements for 2014, 2015, and 2016 as well as the biomass-based diesel requirement for 2017. However, the levels were set at 18.11 billion gallons for 2016, a boost from the 17.4 billion gallons proposed earlier in the year, but still shy of the 22.25 billion gallons called for by Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).
EPA angered many biofuel stakeholders with the proposed and finalized levels by using a waiver to set RVOs lower than statutory figures. Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said at the time – and several times since – that the RVOs represented “ambitious, achievable growth.” EPA claimed infrastructure concerns prohibited setting RVOs at statutory levels, so it exercised waiver authority over the RFS, but renewable fuel advocates point out that the EISA does not contain a waiver for concerns of infrastructure, only supply.
Renewable fuels stakeholders are currently challenging the November RVO release in the court system.
The letter was met with applause from eight biofuel trade groups or companies: the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Archer Daniels Midland, and POET.
“Getting the RFS back to the statutory levels Congress intended is critical in moving our nation forward to energy independence by using cleaner burning, homegrown biofuels, like ethanol, which reduce harmful emissions and our reliance on foreign oil imports,” the groups said. “As important, returning to the statutory levels intended by Congress will provide the necessary certainty producers need to move forward with critical business decisions.
“Back in the fall of 2015, Administrator McCarthy addressed biofuels stakeholders, saying, ‘EPA is working hard to make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard program is actually moving towards the levels that Congress intended,’” the groups continued. “We are hopeful that the EPA will follow through on their commitment, releasing a rule that reflects this and eliminates the possibility of any distribution waivers.”
Under the EISA, the statutory 2017 RVO would total 24 billion gallons, a jump of almost six billion gallons from the 2016 figure. The 2017 RVO is expected to be proposed at some point in late spring or early summer.
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