Regan: EPA to Get RFS Back on Track

What the Broader Economy Can Learn From Climate Work Done in Agriculture

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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EPA Administrator Michael Regan said Wednesday the agency continues to see biofuels as a key tool on climate initiatives. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- One day after EPA granted deadline extensions to refiners to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the Biden administration will be working to get the RFS back on track this year.

On Tuesday, EPA announced it would extend deadlines for obligated parties to comply with RFS deadlines for 2019 and 2020. (See…)

Biofuels groups expressed disappointment in the final rule that extends compliance to November 2021 for the 2019 requirements and into 2022 for the 2021 requirements.

During the Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy summit on Wednesday, Regan didn't comment on the action but instead reiterated biofuels' place in climate initiatives at EPA.

"President (Joe) Biden made it clear that agriculture will have a seat at the table," he said.

"So, he and I are lockstep in that because your perspectives are critical to all areas of our work, especially climate change, and he's been specifically focused on biofuels and advanced biofuels."

The agency faces a 2022 reset of the RFS and may have a proposal to address it this year.

The law requires 20 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels production by 2022. Although the biomass-based diesel industry produces 2 billion to 3 billion gallons of advanced biofuels each year, cellulosic-ethanol technologies have yet to take off commercially.

Regan said the Biden administration supports advanced biofuels, along with electric vehicles and other vehicle emissions advancements.

"There is no doubt that one component of our climate strategy is biofuels," Regan said.

"The RFS is EPA's primary tool here. And, so, we'll be working this year to get that program back on track, more transparency, more certainty in the decisions that we've made, and looking at fuel volumes and things like that. And beyond biofuels, I think we're looking at that next generation of emission standards for greenhouse gases that will apply to passenger cars and trucks."

"These are very important, but we're going to need a suite of options for our transportation agenda and biofuels, especially advanced biofuels are part of that agenda."


As the Biden administration drills down into the details of how to address climate, Regan said the broader economy can learn from the work already done in agriculture.

"The record of innovation in agriculture has been tremendous, and it's undeniable," Regan said.

"I believe in the last six decades the U.S. population is more than double, and agriculture output has kept up with that growth. So, I recognize, and we recognize, that the American farmers and ranchers are some of the most innovative folks in the world. We can learn from that track record in agriculture to achieve a similar record of innovation through our economy."

Regan said the agency will reach out to the private sector and examine the intent of regulations and laws. That includes reducing administrative burdens, he said, and ensuring regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

"Listen, we have an open-door policy, and so we want to hear from you all directly about the innovative approaches that you've adopted to overcome the challenges," Regan said.

"You know farmers, ranchers are on the front lines of these challenges. I don't believe that you can develop policy from sitting behind a desk, and you all are seeing the change in weather patterns and increasing temperatures, changes in insect and pest behavior, more frequent and extreme precipitation, and drought. All which, you know, impactfully affects broad aspects of agricultural production."

For those reasons, he said it was important to hear directly from the farming community on a consistent basis.

"When I was secretary (North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality) I found the best way to overcome these concerns was by having multiple stakeholder groups," Regan said.

"I'm hopeful that we can continue to find common ground where small farmers, especially, have a fighting chance in this economy and in the environmental community."

When it comes to addressing climate issues, he said the Biden administration will use a broad government approach.

"One of the first moves that I plan to make is bringing in an agricultural adviser to the administrator," Regan said, "not only to advise me on the underground work and inform our policies, but to help me coordinate across the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, USDA, just to name a few.

"We're committed to empowering all 40,000 communities across the nation. We are eager to hear from the agriculture and food industry, and we all invite you to share your ideas. And the good news is, EPA is not having to shoulder the burden, but it is government wide."

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Todd Neeley

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