32 bipartisan senators urge RFS action to boost biodiesel industry 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A bipartisan group of 32 senators today pressed U.S. EPA to take action on long-delayed renewable fuel mandates to boost biodiesel producers.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the senators said the agency’s failure to finalize mandates for 2014 and beyond through the renewable fuel standard has caused the biodiesel industry to slow production and lay off workers.

The senators urged EPA to quickly issue a rule setting a retroactive RFS requirement for 2014 at last year’s production levels and to increase the RFS mandate for biodiesel in 2015 and 2016.

“Like many industries, the biodiesel industry requires certainty in order to plan for production in the next year,” the senators wrote. “As such, the administration risks causing further disinvestment and lost jobs if these decisions are not made in a timely manner.”

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led the group.

Congress established the current renewable fuel standard in 2007 to require refiners to blend increasing amounts of conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels into petroleum fuel. Biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats, is considered an advanced biofuel under the program.

In November 2013, EPA proposed to set the 2014 and 2015 standards for biodiesel at 1.28 billion gallons — a level the biodiesel industry said underestimated its expected production. EPA ultimately never finalized the proposal, which also called for cuts to the mandates for conventional ethanol and other advanced biofuels.

The National Biodiesel Board has also called on EPA to get the program back on track by swiftly releasing a rule that sets the 2014 requirements at last year’s production levels.

In their letter, the senators said EPA should increase the volumes for following years to take into account the agency’s recent decision to change the requirements for Argentinean biodiesel to qualify for the program. The National Biodiesel Board has slammed EPA’s decision, charging that it would lead to increased amounts of biodiesel entering the United States (Greenwire, Jan. 30).