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Democratic Lawmakers Call on Biden Administration to Uphold RFS

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A group of 16 Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Biden administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard. (DTN file photo)

With reports the Biden administration may be considering providing relief to oil refiners from their Renewable Fuel Standard obligations, a group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday pushed back in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council.

In recent days media reports indicate the Biden administration may be considering a number of measures including cutting back on RFS volumes for 2020 and 2021, as well as providing other relief to oil refiners. Despite the administration's reported efforts, the price of renewable identification numbers, or RINs, have been falling in recent days. Obligated parties to the RFS can either blend biofuels or purchases RINs credits, which are generated by companies that do blend biofuels.

In the letter, 16 members of Congress urged the administration to stick to its agenda to decarbonize the transportation fuel sector by expanding biofuels blending.

"We write with significant concern about recent reports that the administration is considering several options to exempt oil refiners of their obligations under the Clean Air Act's Renewable Fuel Standard," the lawmakers said.

"We support your efforts to address climate change, but we are concerned that rolling back the RFS obligation for refiners directly contradicts this work. Following through on the actions reportedly under discussion would directly undermine your commitment to address climate change and restore integrity to the RFS and we urge you to reject them. The RFS was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle transportation sector, diversify our fuel supply, strengthen our national security, and drive economic opportunity."

The biofuels industry's RFS struggles span several administrations. Most recently, the Trump administration granted 88 small-refinery exemptions in four years, setting off a legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Industry groups have placed their hope in the Biden administration to set a different course on the RFS.

The letter is signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Debbie Stabenow, Tina Smith, Tammy Duckworth, Richard Durbin, Tammy Baldwin and Ron Wyden, along with Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Lauren Underwood, David Scott, Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, Angie Craig, Cindy Axne and Cheri Bustos.

The lawmakers said the RFS has not only boosted rural economies but has been the impetus for growing a broader biobased economy.

"When allowed to work as Congress intended, the RFS has delivered on these goals while serving as the economic engine behind a growing biobased manufacturing sector across rural America and a biofuel industry with a 100% U.S. supply chain and a higher union density than the national average," the letter said.

"The proposals identified in media reports as options under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency have one thing in common: they all unjustifiably waive Clean Air Act compliance requirements for a small group of refiners that the EPA has repeatedly determined are not negatively impacted by the RFS. If adopted, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, our reliance on oil will increase, consumers will pay more at the pump, and the U.S. economy will be harmed.

"Rather than exempting refiners of their obligations under the Clean Air Act, the administration should provide additional certainty and stability to the renewable fuels marketplace that will create jobs, drive investment, and cut carbon emissions from the existing vehicle fleet. We encourage your administration to swiftly issue a proposed rule for the 2021 and 2022 Renewable Volume Obligations with strong blending targets."

In addition, the lawmakers asked EPA to remand 500 million gallons of biofuels to the RFS as a result of a 2017 court decision.

"As your administration continues to push for meaningful and rapid climate action, biofuels can and should play an important role in decarbonizing vehicle emissions," the letter said.

"Recent studies demonstrate that using ethanol in place of gasoline reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost

half while biodiesel cuts greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 74%. Exempting refiners of their obligations to blend biofuel would mean increased reliance on oil and more carbon emissions -- a result this country cannot afford if we are to meet our new commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030."

Ethanol interest groups Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association released statements on Wednesday thanking the lawmakers.

Read the letter here:…

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