Republican aims to strip RFS funding in Interior-EPA approps bill 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015

A freshman Georgia congressman wants to eliminate funding for U.S. EPA to put in place the renewable fuel standard that EPA uses to set annual biofuels requirements for refiners.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) is seeking to add an amendment to the fiscal 2016 spending plan for the Interior Department and EPA that would prevent any funds from being used to either implement or enforce the RFS, according to conservative group FreedomWorks.

The group yesterday sent a “key vote” alert asking people to contact their representatives and urge them to vote “yes” on the provision.

“The market for renewable energy should be driven by consumer demand, not government mandates that keep prices high and pick winners and losers in the market,” FreedomWorks wrote. “The RFS tries to artificially support an industry that is not yet commercially viable.”

The House is scheduled to begin debate on the Interior-EPA appropriations bill today but will not hold any recorded votes on it until after the Fourth of July recess.

The bill overall would provide the combined departments and related agencies with $30.17 billion, or $246 million below current spending levels and $3 billion below President Obama’s fiscal 2016 request for the agencies. EPA would take a hit of about 9 percent, or $718 million, under the spending plan.

The full House yesterday approved a modified open rule for debate on the bill, which would give amendments that have been submitted precedence over those that have not and would limit debate to five minutes. The rule does not limit the number of amendments.

There have been several pieces of legislation introduced this Congress that aim to either reform or repeal the renewable fuel standard. Loudermilk, who could not be reached for comment yesterday or today, is a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would eliminate the standard.

While a strange-bedfellow coalition of stakeholders supports legislative attempts to weaken the RFS, most opponents of the standard have been quiet about the proposed amendment.

According to Mike McKenna, a Republican strategist, the amendment is problematic because it could force the country to follow the biofuels mandates that Congress wrote into law in 2007. EPA has used its authority to waive the target for non-food cellulosic biofuels because of a slower-than-expected ramp-up in the industry; going back to the statutory volumes would require vast amounts of cellulosic fuel that don’t exist in the market.

“If it passes, refiners and the oil industry would wind up working against the Interior approps. It would kill the bill,” McKenna said. “Even if it fails, it would split the caucus and probably drag the bill down.”

When asked about the amendment, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, today said he doubted legislation targeting the renewable fuel standard in a meaningful way would receive enough support to get through Congress at this time.

Whitfield chaired a series of hearings on the RFS last Congress, though the Energy and Commerce Committee ultimately failed in putting together a piece of comprehensive legislation to reform the standard.

“It’s been a really controversial issue,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s enough votes anywhere to significantly change the renewable fuel standard myself.”