WASHINGTON, June 24, 2016 - A bipartisan group of 39 senators is calling on the EPA to produce a strong Renewable Fuel Standard when it releases its final rule setting 2017 blending requirements for ethanol and other biofuels later this year.

In a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, the senators, led by Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, said the final rule should support U.S. jobs, reduce the environmental impact on the transportation and energy sectors and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

“We urge you to ensure that the final rule promote growth in the U.S. biofuel sector and capture economic opportunity rather than drive investment overseas,” the senators said in the letter.

The lawmakers said that when Congress adopted the RFS in 2005, and expanded it in 2007, “it intended to put in place a stable, forward-looking policy to drive innovation and investments in biorefining capacity and distribution infrastructure to bring biofuels to American consumers.”  The policy has spurred the growth of the renewable industry and the development of new types of biofuels, they said.

However, the senators said EPA has undermined those gains in recent years by relying on concerns that the distribution infrastructure needed to transport renewable fuels is lacking. As a result, “biofuel investment has fallen and projects are moving overseas,” the senators wrote.

The oil industry uses the distribution infrastructure argument in opposition to higher blending levels, but biofuels producers disagree. 

Don’t miss out on renewable fuel stories such as this one in our ag and rural policy newsletter, in the Daily Harvest email and on our website. Sign up for a four-week free trial Agri-Pulse subscription.

In their letter, the senators noted that the EPA still has time to modify its proposed rule and boost the volume levels from its original proposal. They point out that EPA’s final rule for 2014, 2015, and 2016 was somewhat higher than the proposed rule after lawmakers, farmers and fuel producers weighed in heavily with the EPA. The agency revised the levels higher but they were still lower than what ethanol producers anticipated they could produce, the letter said.

Last month, in its proposed Renewable Volume Obligations for 2017, EPA called for 14.8 billion gallons of biofuel –  typically viewed as corn-based ethanol – to be mixed with the gasoline supply. The statutory requirement calls for 15 billion gallons. EPA also proposed an advanced biofuel component of 4 billion gallons.

EPA intends to publish its final rule by the end of November. The agency is accepting public comments on the 2017 RVOs until July 11.

Click here to see a text of the letter and a list of the signees.