More Concerns Raised over RFS Potential Changes

Source: By ANTHONY ADRAGNA, Poltiico • Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nearly all major biofuel trades and the corn growers are out with a letter this morning to Trump urging him to abandon “drastic, unprecedented changes” to change the Renewable Fuel Standard that they said would benefit a select few petroleum refiners. “The proposed changes are inconsistent with the law and threaten the growth and prosperity of the U.S. biofuels industry,” wrote signatories of the letter, including National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy. “EPA’s changes are also inconsistent with Administrator Pruitt’s assurances to uphold the law and your long-standing support of ethanol and the RFS.” EPA released a notice last week suggesting it might reduce the already set 2018 biomass-based biodiesel requirement and shrink the mandate in 2019.

Grassley confirms Trump conversation: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he discussed his concern over potential changes to the RFS during a Friday phone conversation with Trump. “They’re trying to respond to big oil and not take into consideration the needs of alternative energy, biofuels,” he said. “Cutting back on the mandate isn’t a way you’re going to encourage capital and capital is what we need now to get pumps to pump E15 instead of E10.”

Seems relevant: The White House previously granted EPA deputy general counsel Erik Baptist, a senior counsel to the American Petroleum Institute for more than six years, an ethics waiver to work on RFS issues given his “expertise in this program and its policy and implementation.” Copy of that waiver here.

NO OZONE DESIGNATIONS AS DEADLINE PASSES: EPA appears to have missed the Oct. 1 deadline to say which parts of the U.S. meet the 2015 ozone standard and which don’t, a key step toward implementing the regulation. The agency is remaining mum; a spokesperson told ME Monday that there is “no further information” on when the designations will be released. The matter has been controversial for months, ever since Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would delay the designations by a year — a delay he later reversed following lawsuits from Democratic attorneys general and environmental groups. (The 2015 standard itself is also under review, with no specific timeline attached.) It may be a while before green groups can take Pruitt to court. The Clean Air Act requires them to provide EPA with 60 days’ notice before filing a lawsuit over a missed deadline, meaning any suit couldn’t be filed until December at the earliest.

Also adding uncertainty to the process is a pending proposed rule at OMB that appears to set new thresholds for how EPA classifies ozone areas. That rule arrived at OMB on Sept. 21. EPA had previously proposed classification details last November that the agency characterized as only minor changes to the implementation rules for the 2008 ozone standard. An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on a rule under review at OMB.