150 House lawmakers urge EPA to lower next year’s ethanol mandate

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013

About 150 bipartisan House lawmakers have signed onto an effort to convince U.S. EPA to lower its target next year for conventional ethanol use.

In a letter being sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the lawmakers cite volatile corn prices and increased compliance costs for refiners as reasons for the agency to use its authority given by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act to lower the corn ethanol portion of the renewable fuel standard.

“Prompt action by the EPA can help to ease short supply concerns, prevent engine damage, save jobs across many U.S. industries, and keep families fed,” the lawmakers say in their letter. “We strongly urge you to exercise your authority and take the necessary steps to protect American consumers and the economy.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who earlier this year introduced legislation to both completely eliminate the renewable fuel standard and reduce its corn ethanol requirements, has been leading the effort to convince colleagues to sign the letter to EPA.

He is joined by Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who all have publicly opposed the renewable fuel standard.

“We must urge the EPA to adjust the normally rigid RFS to recognize market conditions and realities,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter obtained by E&E Daily that is circulating among House colleagues.

The action by the lawmakers comes shortly after a leaked draft EPA proposal showed that the agency was considering reducing its overall renewable fuel target for next year, which includes both conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels, from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion. Under the draft, corn ethanol would be lowered from 14.4 billion gallons to 13 billion.

EPA’s proposal is currently at the Office of Management and Budget.

According to meeting information released yesterday by OMB, oil industry officials, ethanol producers, advanced biofuel companies, livestock producers and environmental groups have stepped up their lobbying as the office finishes its review of EPA’s proposal. Representatives of interest groups have met with OMB and EPA officials about 20 times over the last two weeks to give feedback on the draft language.

Advanced biofuel producers, who are worried that EPA’s proposal could end up undercutting investment in their industry, have especially stepped up their advocacy. Various groups of producers and their lobbyists have met with the Office of Management and Budget and EPA officials six times in the last week, according to OMB meeting records.

In a letter to the president Tuesday, nearly 40 advanced biofuel companies warned that the draft proposal floating around is already having negative consequences (Greenwire, Oct. 29).

The conventional ethanol industry yesterday said that the lawmakers’ letter to EPA was causing additional anxiety among producers.

Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group, slammed the effort as an attempt by the “cheap corn caucus” to lower their costs of production at the expense of American consumers.

“The signatories of this letter seem to suggest that our nation should continue our addiction to foreign oil,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Renewable fuels reduce our dependence on foreign oil, strengthening both our national and energy security.