By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) -- A bipartisan group of 36 U.S. senators sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday asking for even larger increases in biodiesel's share of the Renewable Fuel Standard proposal that is open for public comment until the end of the month.
Though the biodiesel industry emerged with the best gains of any biofuel in the EPA's four-year proposed RFS, the group of lawmakers told McCarthy they believe the proposal still sells short a biodiesel industry that produced 1.8 billion gallons in 2013.
Lawmakers asked for a bump up in the biodiesel RFS to 2 billion gallons in 2016 and at least 2.3 billion gallons in 2017.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on tax extenders legislation that also includes the renewal of the biodiesel tax credit along with other renewable energy credits.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., garnered the signatures of 32 other senators asking EPA for increased biodiesel volumes. (View the entire letter at http://tinyurl.com/…)
"After significant delays in establishing biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard, we were pleased to see the Environmental Protection Agency recently move forward with a new proposed rule," the letter states.
"While the proposal is a positive step for biodiesel, we remain concerned that the proposed biodiesel volumes for 2016 and 2017 fail to adequately recognize the domestic biodiesel industry's production capacity and its ability to increase production... EPA's actions over the past year have led to tremendous uncertainty and hardship for U.S. biodiesel producers and thousands of their employees. As a result, many plants have been forced to reduce production and some have been forced to shut down, leading to layoffs and lost economic productivity.
"...We believe the domestic biodiesel industry is fully capable of additional growth and urge the EPA to revise the volumes in the final rule."
In addition, the lawmakers said they are concerned about stepped-up biodiesel imports already competing with the U.S. industry, saying a stronger RFS would help keep local producers competitive.
"Congress created the RFS to incentivize domestic production of clean renewable fuels, while still allowing imports to participate in the RFS," the letter states. "As a result, we have seen a steady stream of imported biodiesel participate in the program. Since EPA announced its new proposed rule, imports bound for the U.S. have increased significantly and are expected to keep growing. EPA's decision earlier this year to allow imports from Argentinean renewable fuel producers to participate in the RFS must be taken into account, and biodiesel volumes must be set at sufficient levels to prevent displacement of domestic production."
Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said in a news release Monday that the senators' request shows bipartisan support for the industry.
"We want to thank Sens. Grassley, Murray, Blunt and Heitkamp for their leadership on this effort, as well as all of the senators who supported it," she said. "It's not every day that you have Republicans and Democrats from such a diverse group of states uniting around an issue like this. We hope the EPA and the White House will listen and improve this proposal before it is finalized later this year."
The public comment period on the RFS closes July 27.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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