EPA sends final 2014 RFS rule to White House

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2014

U.S. EPA sent a long-overdue final rule setting the 2014 renewable fuel standard to the White House on Friday for interagency review.

In a statement, EPA said it will issue the final rule — already well past the Nov. 30, 2013, deadline set by law — when it’s cleared by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. OMB reviews typically take about a month.

The 2007 renewable fuel standard requires EPA to mandate the amounts of ethanol and advanced biofuel that refiners must blend into petroleum fuel. While Congress laid out specific targets for those fuels, it gave EPA discretion to lower them under certain conditions.

In its November proposal for 2014 requirements, EPA called for the first-ever rollbacks of both the ethanol and advanced biofuels mandates. The agency said it would require 13.01 billion gallons for corn ethanol and 2.2 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of total advanced biofuels, a category that includes cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel.

The proposed total renewable fuel target of 15.21 billion gallons represents a 16 percent reduction from 2014 levels in the RFS law (E&ENews PM, Nov. 15, 2013).

The EPA proposal generated 340,000 public comments and a firestorm of criticism among farmers and ethanol producers, who said that it would hurt rural economies and undermine energy independence goals. Over the last half-year, biofuel groups launched several campaigns to rally support for the RFS.

EPA has widely been expected to increase the proposed targets in its final rule, and administration officials have suggested as much in many public appearances and meetings with RFS supporters (E&E Daily, July 25).

But the agency didn’t hint today about the final numbers. In its proposal, EPA based the lower targets on limits to the amount of ethanol that can be used in cars and fueling infrastructure and a lack of commercially available advanced biofuel.

“EPA supports the energy independence and security goals that congress envisioned when establishing the RFS program,” EPA said in its emailed statement. “The agency’s overarching goal is to put the RFS program on a path that supports continued growth in renewable fuels over time.”

Biofuel supporters urged the Obama administration to finalize the rule as quickly as possible.

“We’re pleased to see the process moving forward and hope the final rule will show that this administration is standing behind our national goals for clean, domestic fuels that strengthen our economy and national security,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board.

EPA has twice extended the compliance period for the 2013 requirements as it completes the final 2014 rule.

The oil industry has consistently criticized EPA for the delay in issuing the final rule, saying that it hurts businesses because they cannot plan ahead without knowing this year’s requirements. The delay has led to speculation that the Obama administration is hoping to help out Democratic Senate candidates in corn states (E&E Daily, June 9).

EPA’s proposal has coincided with a push in Congress to reform or repeal the renewable fuel standard. Critics, mostly led by the American Petroleum Institute, argue that EPA’s delay in the 2014 rule and the resulting uncertainty over the final numbers signal that the standard is broken.

“This is the longest, most unreasonable delay in a history of long, unreasonable delays when it comes to implementing the RFS under this administration,” API senior policy adviser Patrick Kelly said.