Democratic senators go to bat for biodiesel 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seven Democratic senators today plan to call on U.S. EPA to swiftly set robust targets for biodiesel through the renewable fuel standard program.

Led by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), the coalition plans to highlight what it calls “extensive and undue burdens” on biodiesel producers and farmers brought on by EPA delays in setting annual targets under the program, according to a news release from Heitkamp’s office.

At the event in the U.S. Capitol, they also will likely criticize EPA for a rule the agency proposed in late 2013 but never finalized that would have scaled back refiners’ requirements for using ethanol and advanced biofuels such as biodiesel.

“The senators will also reinforce the harsh impact of uncertainty caused by EPA’s misguided 2013 rule and delays on farmers and biodiesel workers,” according to a release about the event.

Joining Heitkamp will be Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Al Franken of Minnesota and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. About a year ago, most of the same senators held a press conference to protest EPA’s proposal to cut the volume requirements for refiners (E&E Daily, May 15, 2014).

Through the renewable fuel standard, EPA is supposed to finalize the following year’s mandates for conventional ethanol and most advanced biofuels by Nov. 30 of the previous year. The annual target for biodiesel — an advanced biofuel made of soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats — is supposed to be finalized 14 months before it goes into effect.

EPA, however, has yet to finalize any standards for 2014 and beyond. The agency is currently working toward a June 1 deadline to issue proposed renewable fuel mandates for 2014, 2015 and 2016 as part of a settlement agreement with oil industry trade groups.

The National Biodiesel Board says the delays and uncertainty in the standards have caused 54 biodiesel plants to either close or idle since November 2012.

Executives from Archer Daniels Midland and Imperium Renewables will also join the senators at today’s event.