Draft letter blasts ‘harmful’ EPA plan to scale back RFS 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A draft letter being circulated among Senate offices urges U.S. EPA to get the nation’s biofuel policy “back on track.”

EPA’s proposal to scale back the renewable fuel standard in 2014 based on concerns about the blend wall was “harmful” and discouraged investment in the advanced biofuels sector, according to the letter obtained by Greenwire.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune’s office is currently circulating the letter among colleagues, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“After EPA’s severe misstep with its 2014 proposal … we urge you to take this opportunity to correct the flawed methodology in the agency’s original 2014 proposal and issue a new proposal for 2014 and beyond that sets the RFS, and the nation, back on track,” the draft letter says.

The draft letter is not dated yet but is scheduled to be sent in March. Thune’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Congress passed the current version of the renewable fuel standard in 2007 to encourage the use of more conventional ethanol and the development of advanced biofuels.

In late 2013, EPA proposed to roll back the RFS’s 2014 mandates based on the limit — known as the blend wall — to the amount of ethanol that can be used in existing fuel infrastructure, as well as a slower-than-expected rollout of advanced biofuel.

The letter criticizes EPA’s proposal to use its waiver authority under the RFS statute to lower the mandates.

“Infrastructure constraints do not appear in the statute and were expressly rejected by Congress when the RFS was passed,” the letter says. “Limiting the RFS to levels that can be met with existing infrastructure is outside the waiver authority of the EPA.”

The letter urges EPA to implement the RFS in a manner “consistent with the statute,” warning that not doing so would contribute to greater dependence on foreign oil, increase greenhouse gas emissions, increase unemployment and undermine investments in advanced biofuels.

Last year, a bipartisan group of more than 30 senators, including Thune, penned a similar letter to EPA that called on the agency to rethink the proposed cuts.

The letter comes after EPA announced it would combine the mandates for 2014, 2015 and 2016 in a single proposal this spring. In a recent speech to the ethanol industry, EPA’s transportation chief also expressed a desire to get the RFS “back on track” (Greenwire, Feb. 20).

Ethanol producers have urged EPA to set targets consistent with the RFS statute.

Mike McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist and strategist, pushed back against the request, highlighting a recent report by the World Resources Institute that recommended against using land for biofuels for food security and environmental reasons.

“The senator probably needs to read through the WRI report,” McKenna said, “because the report makes it clear that the use of biomass for fuels is a bad idea for the environment. We already know it is a bad idea for engines and that it is a bad idea for consumers.”