N.D. senator urges EPA to ‘accelerate’ RFS timeline 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) yesterday pressed U.S. EPA to speed up its recently announced timeline for completing annual renewable fuel mandates.

The agency on Friday announced that it would propose 2014 and 2015 mandates under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) on June 1 and finalize them by Nov. 30 in a tentative settlement agreement with oil trade groups.

In a letter yesterday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Heitkamp said that the timeline would cause “serious harm” to biodiesel producers, which operate under different RFS timelines than other renewable fuels.

“I urge you to accelerate the process to finalize a rule and end the uncertainty biodiesel producers and the farmers who supply them face,” Heitkamp wrote.

Congress attached the renewable fuel standard to the Clean Air Act in 2007 as a means of increasing energy independence and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector.

By law, EPA is supposed to finalize the following year’s mandates for conventional ethanol and most advanced biofuels by Nov. 30 of the previous year. The annual target for biodiesel — an advanced biofuel made of soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats — is supposed to be finalized 14 months before it goes into effect.

EPA, however, has yet to issue any renewable fuel standards for 2014 and beyond. The agency backed away from a proposal that would have slashed the mandates for both ethanol and advanced biofuels.

On Friday, EPA announced that it would also issue the 2016 renewable fuel mandates, as well as the 2017 biodiesel level, along the same time frame as the settlement agreement.

EPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality Christopher Grundler said that the schedule would get the RFS program “back on track” (E&ENews PM, April 10).

But Heitkamp wrote that the timeline “risks further disinvestment” in the biodiesel industry.

“Should the EPA stick to its newly proposed timeline to finalize the [mandates], it will be almost a full three years late in setting biodiesel volumes,” she said. “This delay has caused serious harm to biodiesel producers — forcing plants around the country to shut down or slow production.”

The National Biodiesel Board, however, praised EPA’s announcement of the settlement with the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

“The RFS is the most successful policy we have for reducing emissions in the transportation sector, and it is working,” NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel said in a statement. “We applaud the EPA for taking this step and look forward to working with the Administration in the coming weeks to get this program back on track.”

Critics of the renewable fuel standard, on the other hand, used the announcement as a springboard for calling on Congress to repeal the policy.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who leads the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, said that while the agreement “brings a deadline for proposing renewable fuel standard volume requirements, the RFS program still remains a consistently mismanaged program in need of full repeal.”