Renewable fuel standard up for another lashing

Source: Marc Heller, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 14, 2016

U.S. EPA’s renewable fuel standard is up for another lashing in Congress.

Two lawmakers who have called for repeal of the RFS are holding a joint hearing on the issue Wednesday, combining the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittees on administrative rules and Interior programs.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) leads the Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules, and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) leads the Interior Subcommittee.

EPA’s implementation of the standard faces criticism from both sides in Congress, with Democratic lawmakers saying the agency overstepped legal bounds by lowering the annual renewable fuels mix for 2014 to 2016, and Republicans saying the requirement drives up fuel prices and risks damaging engines with overly rich ethanol blends.

Both sides agree the agency was lax in missing deadlines to release the standard, eventually doing so retroactively and for three years at once.

Janet McCabe, EPA administrator for air and radiation, has said the agency intends to release the standard for 2017 in a more timely fashion.

Congressional action on the RFS, outside of hearings, isn’t likely anytime soon, lobbyists say, as the issue is playing out in federal court where EPA faces industry lawsuits over the fuel levels for 2014 to 2016.

Jordan has been particularly critical of the agency for not using its waiver authority more freely. It allows EPA to set renewable fuel levels lower than the Clean Air Act dictates in case of potential economic harm.

In 2013, Jordan said at a similar hearing that rising costs for farmers and businesses were harmful enough to warrant waiving the blend requirements.

Jordan and Lummis are each co-sponsors of the “Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act,” H.R. 703, along with nearly 80 other lawmakers, all Republicans.

Lummis, a supporter of biomass, supported legislation in 2009 to add woody biomass to the fuels eligible for the RFS, saying it would help forest health and provide a use for forest products otherwise left behind when trees are harvested.

Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, March 16, at 2 p.m. in 2154 Rayburn.

Witnesses: TBA.