EPA proceeding business as usual on RFS; consultants warn about Trump
SAN DIEGO — Environmental Protection Agency scientists and other professionals are continuing to proceed on future volumetric requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and other policies, a key EPA official told the National Biodiesel Board conference in San Diego.
But outside consultants said that the biodiesel industry needs to follow carefully what direction President Donald Trump and his staff will give to EPA.
The discussion on Jan. 18 took place before Trump was inaugurated and EPA officials got directives not to communicate with outsiders and to rethink the agency’s climate change page on its website. Those directives were later softened.
Paul Argyropoulos, a senior policy adviser in EPA’s Office of Transportation & Air Quality, said via videoconference that EPA’s civil servant staff is continuing to work on a range of issues even though the political leadership is changing. Those tasks, he said, include the next set of volumetric requirements, which will depend on what’s available in the market, a final decision on whether to change the point of obligation for compliance with the RFS, which involves analyzing many comments, litigation before the agency and whether to change feedstocks that are allowed.
The lack of a confirmed administrator “is not stopping us from continuing to do our job,” he said. But he added, “the list is long, not simple. We expect we are going to have a very, very busy year” including getting to know the new political leadership.
But Larry Schafer, president and CEO of the Diamond Group, a consulting firm, said that biodiesel industry officials need to follow not only the new political leadership at EPA, but also at the Office of Management and Budget, the Agriculture Department and on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s nominees have said they will follow the direction of Congress on the RFS, Schafer said, but “the petroleum industry really feels good about these nominees and where they are in the process. They feel like they are in a really good position.”
The biodiesel industry has done a good job of educating the civil servants at EPA about the industry, but “folks need to spend a lot of time working very specifically with this new team to highlight how important advanced biofuels are,” Schafer said.