Biodiesel producers to hit Hill in assault on EPA proposal

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Biodiesel producers will be on Capitol Hill today to push back against the Obama administration’s proposal for this year’s renewable fuel targets.

The producers plan to tell lawmakers that the proposal, which calls for keeping the biodiesel target level and lowering other biofuels mandates, has already affected bottom lines, according to the National Biodiesel Board. A recent board survey found the majority of biodiesel producers have reduced production or idled plants this year.

The nearly 100 biodiesel producers — who produce fuel from soybean oil, animal fats and used cooking grease — also plan to call on Congress to renew their $1-a-gallon tax credit, which expired last year along with a host of other renewable energy incentives.

“People are losing their jobs in this industry as we speak, and it’s largely because Washington has delivered sporadic, inconsistent policy,” Anne Steckel, the National Biodiesel Board’s vice president of federal affairs, said in a statement.

U.S. EPA’s proposal for this year’s renewable fuel targets calls for refiners to blend into petroleum diesel or purchase credits for 1.2 billion gallons of biodiesel. Under the proposal, the mandate would be set at the same as last year and below the 1.8 billion gallons that the industry produced in 2013.

EPA’s proposal also calls for cuts to ethanol and other advanced biofuels compared to last year’s production numbers and the levels set out in the 2007 statute that created the renewable fuel standard. There are signals that the agency is planning to increase the targets for conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels, but that it will leave the biodiesel target as proposed (Greenwire, May 22).

The White House Office of Management and Budget has yet to initiate a review of EPA’s final rule. In the proposed rule, EPA cited concerns about the ability of the biodiesel industry to produce to full capacity because of the lapse of the tax credit.

The fly-in by biodiesel producers from 27 states comes shortly after the Obama administration’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The National Biodiesel Board has been critical of the Obama administration for proposing to address climate-changing emissions at power plants on the one hand while reducing renewable fuels targets on the other.

Under EPA’s definition, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to a petroleum baseline by 50 percent or more.

“It seems confusing that they want to cut emissions from the electricity sector and not from the transportation sector,” Steckel said in an interview last week. “If they’re focusing on reducing carbon as they say they are, it’s kind of baffling why they’re keeping these numbers down instead of growing the program.”

Lawmakers from states with biodiesel industries have been vocal in calling for both an increase in the RFS proposal and an extension of the biodiesel tax credit. Last month, a group of Democratic senators held a press conference to rally support for the industry and charged that EPA had made the “wrong call” with its proposal (E&E Daily, May 15).