EPA sticks with RFS plan; Grassley, Ernst warn of political risk
The Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized a rule that establishes the required renewable volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard program for 2020 and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021.
The EPA pledged to ensure a net 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel (corn-based ethanol) is blended in 2020 but it used a methodology it announced earlier in the year rather than changes recommended by the industry.
Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both expressed disappointment and warned that there could be political ramifications for President Donald Trump in the 2020 elections.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler pledged that Trump’s promises to the industry will be kept.
“President Trump committed to our nation’s farmers that biofuel requirements would be expanded in 2020. At the EPA we are delivering on that promise and ensuring a net of 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel are blended into the nation’s fuel supply,” Wheeler said in a news release.
To fulfill that promise, EPA said it has “modified the RFS program by projecting small refinery relief to ensure that these final volumes are met, while adjudicating small refinery relief when appropriate.”
“As proposed, we are finalizing a projection methodology based on the 2016-2018 annual average of exempted volumes had EPA strictly followed the Department of Energy recommendations of 770 million Renewable Identification Numbers in those years, including granting 50% relief where DOE recommended 50 percent relief.”
“This is our general approach to adjudicating Small Refinery Exemption petitions going forward, beginning with 2019 SRE petitions and including 2020 SRE petitions and beyond, we are committed to following the DOE recommendations. By proposing effectively 15.8 billion gallons for 2020 we will ensure meeting our target of 15 billion gallons.”
EPA said that the key elements of the action are as follows:
• “Conventional” biofuel volumes, primarily met by corn ethanol, will be maintained at the 15 billion gallon target set by Congress for 2020.
• Cellulosic biofuel volumes for 2020, and thus advanced biofuel volumes, will increase by almost 170 million gallons over the 2019 standard.
• Biomass-based diesel volumes for 2021 will be equivalent to the standard for 2020, still more than double the statutory requirement.
• EPA will closely examine the labeling requirements for E15 fuel and move forward with clarifying regulations as needed.
• EPA has modified the way RFS obligations are determined to better ensure that these volumes are met, while still allowing for relief for small refineries consistent with the direction provided by Congress under the statute. By proposing effectively 15.8 billion gallons we will net out at 15 billion.” ❖