Govs. Brown, Inslee warn administration about scaling back RFS

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Democratic governors of Washington and California are warning that a rollback of federal biofuel mandates could thwart state efforts to support low-carbon advanced biofuels.

In a letter to Obama administration officials, Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and Jerry Brown of California said that scaling back the federal renewable fuel standard this year, as U.S. EPA is considering, would create an uncertain policy atmosphere that could hurt their states’ renewable fuel initiatives.

California has in place a low-carbon fuel standard to fast-track adoption of advanced biofuels, while Washington is in the midst of drafting a similar policy.

“These efforts will be most effective if complemented by strong and consistent federal policy support for advanced biofuels,” the governors wrote in the letter obtained by¬†Greenwire, dated Friday.

According to industry observers, EPA is likely to release its final 2014 renewable fuel standard rule in the coming weeks. EPA sent its final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for interagency review in August; as of this morning, the rule was still listed at OMB.

The agency’s proposed rule from last November called for a 16 percent cut in the overall mandate for renewable fuel use this year compared with the level Congress anticipated when the renewable fuel standard was enacted into law in 2007. For advanced biofuels, EPA proposed a mandate of 2.2 billion gallons for 2014, compared with the RFS level of 3.75 billion gallons. The agency also proposed to change the way in which it calculates annual renewable fuel mandates, basing targets for the first time on the ability of the oil industry to distribute biofuels.

In their letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, Inslee and Brown urged EPA to “refrain from adopting new methodologies that would curb investment in low carbon renewable fuels” and to provide that renewable fuel volumes in the country “increase steadily, not just for 2014, but through 2022 and beyond.”

The Obama administration is poised to overturn at least five years of progress in domestic biofuels, the Democratic governors warned.

“The significant volume reductions in EPA’s 2014 proposal damaged the policy stability that is essential to the RFS, and we are concerned that the same action could be taken in coming years,” they wrote.

The governors’ concerns are similar to those voiced by the advanced biofuels industry over the past several months in response to the EPA proposal. Oil industry groups, on the other hand, have urged the Obama administration to enact even lower biofuels mandates on the grounds that there are constraints to their ability to use renewable fuels.

Industry observers expect both the biofuels and oil industries to launch legal challenges against EPA’s final rule.