Nearly 40 senators press EPA to boost RFS levels next year

Source: Marc Heller, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, June 27, 2016

A bipartisan group of 39 senators Friday urged U.S. EPA to boost the biofuel levels it proposed in the renewable fuel standard for 2017.

Led by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the lawmakers pressed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to set renewable fuel volumes at the 15 billion-gallon level Congress dictated in the RFS law, first enacted in 2005 and updated in 2007.

EPA has proposed a level of 14.8 billion gallons for 2017. Officials are preparing a final rule, following a public comment period that recently closed.

In their letter, senators said the biofuels industry has suffered from EPA setting fuel blend levels below congressional mandates. In doing so, the agency has cited its authority to waive the mandated levels based on market conditions and on suppliers’ ability to distribute fuels.

“We cannot afford to cede our leadership position in the world,” the senators wrote. “A strong RFS, and more biofuels, make our country more secure. It increases competition and choice, strengthening our economy. We urge you to take the opportunity to get the program back on track by setting blending targets where Congress intended and by removing the distribution waiver.”

The lawmakers’ letter comes days after a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing at which supporters and opponents of the RFS traded opinions on its benefits and pitfalls. Several lawmakers said they worry that high-ethanol blends damage certain kinds of engines and that the mandate isn’t necessary to maintain a market for ethanol, which is mostly derived from corn.

The Renewable Fuels Association praised the senators in a news release and called for a conventional biofuel level of 15 billion gallons in 2017.