Obama administration punts on 2014 RFS decision

Posted: Friday, November 21, 2014

The Obama administration today will pull back from a controversial rule that would reduce this year’s targets for ethanol and advanced biofuels, according to multiple sources and a draft announcement from U.S. EPA.

In an announcement, the administration will admit that a final rule would likely not be ready before the end of the year. EPA will likely withdraw the rule from the Office of Management and Budget.

EPA issued the proposed rule setting the 2014 volume mandates for renewable fuels last November. It called for a 16 percent cut to the total biofuels mandate compared with the level set by Congress when it passed the renewable fuel standard into law in 2007 (E&ENews PM, Nov. 15, 2013).

The proposal prompted an immediate firestorm of criticism from rural America, where ethanol has been a boon to local economies, and from the advanced biofuels industry, which has counted on the commitments of the RFS to secure investments. Oil industry groups also objected to the rule, arguing it did not go far enough to fix the issue of the “blend wall” — the term they use for the limit to the amount of ethanol that can be used in today’s infrastructure.

According to the draft, EPA says it intends to take action on the 2014 rule in 2015 in an attempt to catch up with the statutory deadlines set by Congress. By law, EPA was supposed to have finalized this year’s RFS mandates by Nov. 30 of last year.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy earlier this week acknowledged the delays in the rule but said she did not believe the uncertainty over the rule had affected the renewable fuels industry, and she affirmed that the administration would continue to support biofuels.

“While I would have preferred to have this rule done earlier, it hasn’t slowed down that industry that I can see, and we’ll continue to have a commitment to moving renewable fuels out and getting that rule done,” she said.