Two proposals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the biofuels industry says will hurt domestic producers, have drawn the ire of a bipartisan group of 38 United States senators.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday, the senators said the proposals could damage the biofuels industry.
Last week, the EPA announced in a notice a proposal to further reduce the renewable volume blend requirements for advanced biofuels, biomass-based diesel volumes for 2018 and 2019, and the total renewable fuel volumes in the RFS.
The proposed reductions are in addition to the agency's proposal to cut those volumes already. The deadline for the final RFS is Nov. 30. The latest change will be subject to an additional 15-day public comment period.
Secondly, a report surfaced last week that EPA is considering a proposal from Valero Energy to leave renewable identification numbers, or RINs, attached to U.S. ethanol gallons produced in the United States and exported. Currently, RINs are removed from exported gallons. The biofuels industry is concerned that doing so would flood the market with RINs and harm domestic biofuel producers.
On Wednesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed that he and other lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Pruitt on Oct. 17 to discuss the proposals. The meeting came about after Grassley talked to President Donald Trump, who advised the senator to contact Pruitt.
In the letter to Pruitt on Thursday, the 38 senators including Grassley urged the administrator to set RFS volumes for 2018 that "promotes growth."
The senators said the RFS was first adopted in 2005 to put in place a "stable, forward-looking policy" and to drive innovation and investments in biofuels.
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"The biofuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country, reduces the environmental impact of our transportation and energy sectors, and cuts our reliance on foreign oil," the letter said.
The RFS is needed, they said, to continue to build on the successes seen in biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, recycled-waste, algal and other advanced biofuels.
"We need to build on this progress," the letter said.
"The 2017 final RFS rule set Renewable Volume Obligations at the levels Congress intended. The 2018 proposed rule, while positive for maintaining the maximum blending target for conventional biofuel at 15 billion gallons, would represent a step back when it comes to advanced biofuels, resulting in less renewable fuels being blended than in 2017. The rule unjustifiably flatlines biomass-based diesel, reduces advanced biofuels, and reduces the cellulosic biofuel blending target by about 25%.
"The RFS must by law be administered in a forward-looking manner. The final rule should address these shortfalls. Taken together, these actions would reduce renewable fuel blending in the U.S. and create uncertainty for producers."
The proposals have raised alarm among biofuels and agriculture interest groups.
Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen "applauded" the efforts of the 38 senators.
"All told, EPA is sending all the wrong signals on a program that has helped clean the air, reduce dependency on petroleum and boost local economies," he said.
"We thank the senators for their leadership and hope administrator Pruitt heeds their call to implement a final 2018 RFS that follows congressional intent."
Growth Energy Chief Executive Officer Emily Skor said, "Now more than ever, this policy is poised to drive additional American innovation and rural investment, creating economic opportunities that President Trump has vowed to protect. We must stand strong against any regulatory back-pedaling that would threaten the continued deployment of American biofuels, including advanced and cellulosic biofuels."
In a statement to DTN on Thursday, Poet Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin said, "These tactics are a back-door strategy by the oil industry to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard, and they mirror the efforts last spring by Carl Icahn to remove legal responsibility from oil refiners. They are misleading the EPA, and these proposals would stop in its tracks any progress biofuels have made for fuel prices, public health, the environment and national security over the last decade.
"We are on the verge of an ag crisis in rural America. We hope President Trump will hold true to his promise to protect the RFS, which is critical to our farmers and rural economies."
Joining Grassley in signing the letter were fellow Republicans John Thune, South Dakota; Joni Ernst, Iowa; John Hoeven, North Dakota; Deb Fischer, Nebraska; Roy Blunt, Missouri; Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, Kansas.
Democratic senators signing the letter include Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota; Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin, Illinois; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island; Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota; Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Michigan; Martin Heinrich and Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, Hawaii; Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Washington; Margaret Wood Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire; Joe Donnelly, Indiana; Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin; Jeffrey A. Merkley and Ron Wyden, Oregon; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; John Tester, Montana; Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts; Bill Nelson, Florida; Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada; Patrick Leahy, Vermont; and Michael Bennet, Colorado.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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