WASHINGTON, May 4, 2016 - Depending on the timeline the administration chooses to follow, the 2017 Renewable Fuel Standard proposal could be published at any point between Saturday and the middle of July.
Last year, under a court order, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed 2014-2016 RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) on May 29, just 22 days after the agency submitted the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. EPA submitted the 2017 RVOs – or the amounts of renewables that must be blended with gasoline – on April 15, and in the unlikely event that the administration follows last year’s timeline, the 22-day window would close on Saturday.
However, the likeliness of that happening is slim to none. Last year, EPA agreed to a consent decree with set release deadlines, something that is not the case this year. Now, OMB has up to 90 days to review EPA’s proposal, putting the potential release date at any point between now and July 14. Extensions are also possible, meaning the announcement could be delayed even longer.
EPA officials have publicly declared a desire to get the RFS “back on track” when it comes to scheduled release dates, but Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen tells Agri-Pulse that he wants to see a little more than that out of the agency.
“We hear ‘back on track’ and we hope that it means more than just meeting the gosh darn deadlines,” Dinneen said. “We hope that it means putting the statute back on track, making sure that they are setting the volumes where Congress intended them to be.”
Renewable fuel advocates are still upset with last year’s announcement, when EPA finalized RVOs below levels set in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) and cited infrastructure concerns as its reason for doing so. The National Corn Growers Association, Growth Energy, RFA, and other groups are currently involved in litigation against the EPA for the use of an infrastructure waiver that the groups say is not in the EISA. A decision on that lawsuit is expected in early 2017, much too late to have an impact on the 2017 RVOs.
While there are some limitations to discussions the groups can have with EPA because of that lawsuit, Jon Doggett, NCGA’s executive vice president for public policy, said in an interview with Agri-Pulse that the groups are concerned the infrastructure concerns may make another appearance in the 2017 RVOs.
“They’ve tried it once, we’re concerned that they would try it again,” Doggett said. “Even though there’s been a lot of investment in infrastructure in the last year, they still may use it. We don’t know why they used it before. Who knows what they’re going to do.”
Both Doggett and Dinneen said their groups would be pushing for a statutory RVO – 24 billion gallons of renewable fuels with the potential for 15 billion gallons of that coming from corn ethanol. Chandler Goule with the National Farmers Union told Agri-Pulse that he thinks the numbers will increase from the 2016 RVO (18.11 billion total gallons, potential for 14.5 billion gallons of corn ethanol), but will still come up short of the statutory figures.
The American Petroleum Institute also has a request for the RFS that unsurprisingly runs contrary to what the renewable fuels groups want. An API spokesman said in an email to Agri-Pulse that the group wants “EPA to limit ethanol mandates to 9.7 percent of total gasoline demand.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration is projecting 2017 motor gasoline consumption at just over 141 billion gallons, meaning API is hoping for a level of about 13.68 billion gallons.
No one who talked with Agri-Pulse for this story had any guess as to when the RVO proposal might be released, but Ron Carleton, EPA’s agricultural liaison, told members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting last week that a proposal could be expected “later this spring.”
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