Iowa senators urge EPA not to gut ethanol mandate

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, April 27, 2015


U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are among almost 40 lawmakers urging the Environmental Protection Agency not to gut an ethanol mandate put in place by Congress eight years ago.

In a bipartisan letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week, the senators from Iowa criticized a proposal by the agency that would have reduced how much renewable fuels would be blended into the country’s motor fuel supply in 2014 to a level below what Congress required in a 2008 law known as the Renewable Fuel Standard. 

Even though the proposal was never enacted, the lawmakers said it created uncertainly for ethanol and biodiesel producers and undermined job creation for Iowa and other renewable fuel producers. Iowa produces more ethanol than any other state.

“When Congress passed the RFS and it was enacted into law, the intent was a forward-looking policy that drives future investments in both biofuels production and the infrastructure necessary to bring these biofuels to market,” the 37 senators said in the April 23 letter.

“With its harmful 2014 proposed rule, the Environmental Protection Agency limited biofuels volume requirements based on available existing infrastructure, a condition that falls outside of the EPA’s clearly defined waver authority provided by Congress in the RFS.”

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The EPA said earlier this month that it will propose blending levels for the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2015 by June 1, and a final rule outlining the volumes for 2014 and 2015 by the end of November.

The 2014 figures, which are now on track to be completed two years after they were due, will reflect how much renewable fuel was actually consumed last year. The EPA said it would finalize the 2016 figures before the end of the year, even though that was not part of the agreement. The EPA is supposed to finalize the blending levels by Nov. 30 of the preceding year.

Ethanol groups praised the letter.

“In no uncertain terms this strong bipartisan coalition of Senators have indicated that they are closely watching the EPA as they seek to finalize this rule and that any changes which would undercut the congressional intent or role of the RFS will be met with intense scrutiny and strong objection,” said Tom Buis, the head of Growth Energy.