Iowa officials to hold their own RFS hearing after administration declines invitation

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Iowa officials have scheduled their own hearing on U.S. EPA’s proposed ethanol and biofuel targets for this year after the Obama administration rejected calls to host the gathering.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said the hearing will give Iowans and Midwesterners the opportunity to air their criticism of EPA’s proposal, which calls for the first-ever reductions in the amount of ethanol and advanced biofuels that refiners must blend into petroleum-based fuel this year. Branstad and other officials, including the entire Iowa congressional delegation, in late December asked administration officials to hold the hearing, but the request was rejected.

“I was disappointed to hear that the federal government has declined our invitation to host a hearing in the Midwest,” Branstad said Friday. “We believe it is necessary to host this public hearing for Iowans and other Midwesterners to more easily provide comments on the EPA’s proposal.”

The hearing will take place Jan. 23 in Iowa’s State Capitol. Those with a stake in the renewable fuel standard have been invited to speak.

EPA’s proposed rule would require refiners this year to blend 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels into petroleum-based fuels — lower than the 18.15 billion gallons that Congress anticipated when it wrote the RFS into statute in 2007 (Greenwire, Nov. 15, 2013).

EPA hosted a listening session on the proposal in early December during which 130 speakers — including Branstad and many farmers and biofuel advocates from the Midwest — responded to the proposed targets for this year (Greenwire, Dec. 5, 2013).

But Iowa officials, as well as the entire Iowa congressional delegation, said there were many more Midwesterners who wanted to speak out about the proposal in person but could not make the trip to Arlington, Va., where the December EPA meeting was held.

“The grass roots ought to be heard here and any time policy changes are under way that have implications on areas from local economies to national energy security,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a statement. “It’s truly unfortunate that the Obama Administration has refused to come to Iowa to hear grass roots concerns about its misguided proposal. Gov. Branstad is right to convene this hearing. It will balance the big-oil bias and fill the void left by the administration in Washington, D.C.”

The public also has a chance to respond to the proposal until Jan. 28 via public comments; as of this afternoon, more than 12,000 people had submitted their views.