Miller says EPA can’t cut mandate

Source: Written by Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Iowa attorney general says there’s adequate supply to meet renewable fuels statute

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says the federal government doesn’t have the authority to reduce how much ethanol and biodiesel should be blended into the U.S. fuel supply.

“The statute gives the EPA the authority to change the targets or the goals for a variety of reasons, but the term that’s important here is ‘inadequate domestic supply,’ ” Miller said at a news conference at the 8th Annual Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona.

He declined to say whether his office would take legal action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it scales back the renewable fuels mandate as proposed.

Miller announced Tuesday he supports maintaining the federal Renewable Fuel Standard that EPA proposed scaling back in November. Tuesday was the last day the federal agency would accept public comments.

“What we see is that there is and will be adequate supply,” Miller said. “There’s a huge amount of corn. There are plants that are in operation and being built. There is no suggestion that the farmers and the plants can’t produce the ethanol required in the standard.”

Miller said the EPA calls the statute “ambiguous — that the standard is talking about the supply of ethanol but also its distribution throughout the system.”

“While there are questions about distribution at a higher level, that’s not really what the statute is talking about,” Miller said.

The American Petroleum Institute has been among the groups warning that refiners are bumping up against a “blend wall,” a level where refiners must include more ethanol in the country’s fuel mix than can be blended in at the 10 percent threshold accepted in all cars and trucks.

So the EPA proposed cutting to 15.2 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels the amount that must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply this year. It’s 3 billion gallons less than Congress required in a 2007 law. Traditional biofuels, composed mostly of corn, would be reduced to 13 billion gallons from 14.4 billion.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds also sent letters to the federal government Tuesday. The state leaders urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and President Barack Obama to continue their “commitment to growing the production and use of renewable fuels.”

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, told summit participants that the decision is a political issue. “Our fight isn’t with EPA. They get it. Our fight is right now with the White House,” Dinneen said. “The administration got confused about its priorities last summer.”

But “I believe the administration still supports its climate agenda … and the only program we have that is reducing carbon emissions is the RFS,” Dinneen said.

Dinneen said ethanol has lowered gasoline prices — a minimum of 50 cents a gallon — and produces good jobs. For example, Iowa leaders released a study showing the industry supports 62,000 jobs in the state and contributed about $5.5 billion in gross domestic product to the state last year.

Dinneen said the industry has a good chance at reversing a rollback. “I still maintain we are going to win this fight,” he said.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the Iowa renewable fuels industry “took a pounding politically in 2013” but the industry is still “fighting back.”

Iowa is the largest producer of ethanol and biodiesel. The state’s 42 ethanol plants are capable of producing 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 bioidesel plants with the capacity to make 315 million gallons annually.