EPA again extends compliance period for 2013 RFS

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014

U.S. EPA is again extending the compliance period for refiners to meet 2013 renewable fuel standard requirements, citing more delays in finalizing the 2014 standards.

In a direct final rule this afternoon, the agency said that it would extend the deadline for refiners to submit RFS compliance reports until 30 days after the 2014 rule is finalized. EPA previously said refiners would have to show compliance with the 2013 standards by Sept. 30.

“This action is being taken because we are still working on the 2014 RFS final standards; and we are taking the time to get them right,” EPA said in an email.

The rule will become effective Sept. 29 if EPA receives no adverse comment, a standard procedure for actions that an agency considers noncontroversial. EPA also today issued a proposed rule with the timeline should it receive negative comments from stakeholders.

The 2007 renewable fuel standard requires EPA each year to set targets for ethanol and advanced biofuels, including biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels. Refiners are then required to blend those volumes of fuel into petroleum gasoline and diesel, or to purchase credits.

EPA issued its final 2013 standards for ethanol and advanced biofuel last August, about eight months after a statutory deadline, and set the original compliance deadline for June 30 of this year. The standards required that refiners use a total of 16.55 billion gallons of biofuels.

But EPA extended the compliance period to Sept. 30 shortly before that compliance period was to end, saying that it believed refiners should know the 2014 requirements prior to the end of the 2013 compliance year (E&ENews PM, June 6).

EPA’s proposal for 2014, released last fall, has been highly controversial and taken much longer than the agency originally anticipated to finalize.

It would represent the first rollback of the federal standards for both ethanol and advanced biofuels, requiring refiners to blend 15.21 billion gallons of biofuels this year. The agency received more than 100,000 comments, many from farmers and biofuel producers who warned that the proposal would backtrack gains made in the rural economy and energy independence.

It’s unclear at this point when the agency will finalize the 2014 rule. A group of senators who met with the White House last week said its release was “imminent,” but EPA has yet to send over the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for a final review.

The American Petroleum Institute, a critic of the RFS, said that it was concerned that today’s announcement means that the 2014 rule is not likely to be finalized anytime soon.

“Right now, EPA should be proposing the 2015 requirements, but we’re still waiting for them to finalize requirements for this year,” API spokesman Carlton Carroll said. “Unfortunately, this has become the rule rather than the exception when it comes to implementation of the RFS under this administration.”

In the email today, EPA reiterated its support for biofuels and said that its goal was to put the RFS on a “manageable path forward.”

“We believe biofuels are an important part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy, helping to curb our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution, and create jobs. We’ve made some great strides, and support the RFS goal of increasing biofuel production and use,” EPA said. “We know how important our proposal is to the biofuels and related industries, which is why data and comments we received is so important.”