Bipartisan fury rains on air chief over RFS retreat 

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014

House lawmakers had little sympathy for U.S. EPA’s air chief today as she defended the agency’s punting on its renewable fuel standard.

Janet McCabe, the acting administrator of EPA’s air office, was criticized from both sides of the aisle today by a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees energy policy.

Republicans and Democrats alike chided McCabe for her office’s decision last month to punt the already-delayed rule mandating the amount of renewable fuel required in petroleum-based gasoline and diesel (Greenwire, Nov. 21).

California Rep. Jackie Speier, the subcommittee’s top Democrat, berated McCabe for failing to set a date for the final rule and threatened congressional action to repeal the RFS if EPA can’t commit to a deadline.

EPA said it plans to finalize its 2014 standards — which were due in 2013 — next year, along with the 2015 and 2016 standards.

Pressed today for a timeline for the 2015 rollout, McCabe said, “I can’t give you a date certain.” She added, “We will move as expeditiously as we can.”

Speier wasn’t satisfied. “Why don’t you give us a date?” she asked. “You could have a goal that your employees can work toward. To just have this kind of ephemeral, ‘We’ll have it done sometime in 2015,’ doesn’t give the industry any confidence moving forward.”

McCabe started to defend the agency’s actions, saying, “We are working on the steps that we’ll need to take, the time that that timeline will take … .”

But Speier cut her off.

“That’s gibberish, Ms. McCabe. I’m sorry,” the California Democrat said. “Just be clear: What is your goal?”

When the air chief again declined to offer a schedule, Speier said, “Maybe then, members of Congress should introduce a bill to repeal it unless you have a rule out by a date certain. Will that be enough to encourage the actual issuing of that rule? I don’t think we’re asking for a lot here.”

Republicans similarly attacked EPA’s refusal to commit to a time frame for the standard.

“We’ve heard for a year, ‘It’s coming,'” said subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.), who favors a full repeal of the RFS. “‘It’s coming’ is not enough.”

McCabe said EPA’s move last month to further delay the 2014 standard was in part due to the significant number of diverging comments, “particularly about how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes for renewable fuels should be lowered.” Most notably, she added, “commenters expressed concerns regarding the ability of the proposed approach to provide continued progress toward achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by the statute.”

She added that EPA recognizes the delay has “exacerbated uncertainty” in the market but said the goal to issue three years’ worth of RFS standards next year would help to get back to a more predicable schedule.

Lankford, who will be heading to the Senate in January, assured the air boss that the RFS is a big issue and lawmakers intend to keep up pressure on the agency.

“We’re not going to let go of this,” he told her.