Pro-RFS senators meet with White House chief of staff

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015

More than a dozen bipartisan senators Thursday met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to press for more robust yearly renewable fuel targets.

At the meeting on Capitol Hill, the senators expressed concerns that a recent proposal by U.S. EPA to set targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016 underestimated the ability of producers to make ethanol and advanced biofuels.

“I hope the chief of staff who met with a large, bipartisan group of senators will take our concerns to heart and back to the EPA,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of Congress’ biggest champions of ethanol, after the meeting.

Congress added the most recent renewable fuel standard to the Clean Air Act in 2007 to require refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into petroleum gasoline and diesel. Lawmakers laid out specific levels of biofuels each year through 2022 but gave EPA leeway to waive the volume requirements on a year-to-year basis.

Earlier this year, EPA proposed to lower the volumes of ethanol and advanced biofuels through 2016 compared with the levels Congress wrote into the 2007 statute.

EPA proposed the lower targets because of short-term limits to more ethanol being added to gasoline and a slower-than-expected increase in the domestic advanced biofuel sector.

At least 14 senators met with the White House chief of staff on the proposal, according to an attendance list provided to E&E Daily. Many, including Grassley and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), have been vocal in their concerns about the EPA proposal.

According to the lawmakers, the targets would hurt rural America and undermine efforts to boost energy security. Biofuel producers have also raised concerns about the proposal.

“The EPA needs to revise and improve the rule, and President Obama needs to make it a priority,” Grassley said.

EPA is poised to release final targets by Nov. 30 under a settlement with oil industry trade groups.