RFA, NBB Object to EPA's Plan

NEW YORK (DTN) -- Renewable Fuels Association and the National Biodiesel Board expressed strong opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recent move to lower blending volumes for biofuels.

On Wednesday, EPA published a Notice of Data Availability or NODA, requesting comment on options for reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volumes.

There had been rumors about the impending EPA move since last week but the publication made it official. The agency is looking to reduce the volumes beyond those already proposed in their recent 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard Renewable Volume Obligation proposed rule.

Specifically, the agency is requesting comment on a further reduction of the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement from the proposed level of 4.24 billion gallons to 3.77 billion gallons, and the 2018 total renewable fuel volume requirement from the proposed level of 19.24 billion gallons to 18.77 billion gallons, driven by apparent concerns over biofuel imports.

In his news release opposing the EPA move, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said there is no rationale for further lowering either the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement or the total renewable fuel volume.

"As we outlined in our recent public comments to EPA on the proposed 2018 RVO, we see no statutory basis whatsoever for attempting to limit biofuel imports through the use of a general waiver," he said. "It is also likely that using RFS waiver authorities in an attempt to limit exports would be perceived as a non-tariff trade barrier, which could run afoul of U.S. obligations under World Trade Organization rules."

Additionally, he said there are a number of avenues outside of EPA's jurisdiction and outside of the RFS to pursue recourse of biofuel trade barriers and international market distortions. Congress never intended for RFS waiver authorities to serve as tools for managing trade flows, he said.

Even if EPA acted to reduce the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volume requirements, the actions are unlikely to curtail biodiesel imports significantly, he added.

"The RFA will formally submit comments for the record, but we don't see justification for any further reductions to the 2018 RVO proposal. Doing so would only harm U.S. consumers," Dinneen said.

Doug Whitehead, chief operating officer at the National Biodiesel Board, said, "EPA's proposal earlier this summer was inadequate, underestimating the power of domestic biodiesel production and ignoring the intent of the law. This request for comment is even more disappointing."

He said NBB will be working with EPA to demonstrate the biodiesel industry's proven success record.