Biodiesel producers try to sway EPA on production targets

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013

The National Biodiesel Board has launched an advocacy campaign aimed at the administration on concerns that the 2014 biodiesel target contained in a draft U.S EPA proposal may stymie the growth the industry has experienced over the past few years.

The board is encouraging its members to write letters this week to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Howard Shelanski, as well as contact their congressional members, NBB spokesman Ben Evans said today. The board is also bringing a small group of producers to meet with the Office of Management and Budget on Friday on EPA’s 2014 renewable fuel standard.

“We are trying to convey our sense of urgency to the administration that this would really be a huge step backward for advanced biofuels and the RFS,” NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel said in an emailed statement.

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from soybean oil, animal fats and used cooking grease that is blended with petroleum-based diesel.

For the last several years, EPA has consistently raised its biodiesel target under the renewable fuel standard, encouraging increased production and investment in the industry. Annual biodiesel production stood at essentially zero gallons at the beginning of the millennium and is projected to hit a record 1.7 billion gallons by the end of this year.

Rather than increasing the target to reflect the growth in the industry, the draft proposal circulated earlier this month would hold the biodiesel target level at 1.28 billion gallons (Greenwire, Oct. 9).

It’s unclear whether that proposal is the same one EPA sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review in late August or an earlier version, but it has created waves in the biofuels sector for its apparent retreat from aggressive biofuel goals. In a statement, McCarthy said the agency has not yet made a final decision about its 2014 targets.

The proposal would be devastating for the biodiesel industry, Steckel said.

“It would represent a 25 percent cut to this year’s projected production. It would lead to dozens of plants closing and thousands of lost jobs,” she said. “It would also sincerely inhibit financing and investment in the industry going forward.”

In their letters to EPA and the White House, biodiesel producers expressed “alarm” at the draft proposal. They say the biodiesel number comes with “little explanation or rationale” and would especially hurt smaller companies, which have already taken a hit over the last couple of years due to a few high-profile fraud cases in the industry.

Biodiesel producers are asking that EPA set next year’s biodiesel target at a minimum of 1.7 billion gallons.

“This proposal just doesn’t make sense to us,” said Mike Noble, president of Erie, Pa., biodiesel producer HERO BX. “This industry is growing, and it’s meeting the advanced biofuels goals of the RFS, so to see the administration potentially rolling back that success at this point is very frustrating.”

Before the government shutdown, EPA had been widely expected to release its proposed 2014 renewable fuel targets in mid-October. The agency could roll out the numbers at any time.