RFS final rule heads to White House

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2015

U.S. EPA sent the final rule for the 2014-2016 biofuel volume requirements under the renewable fuel standard to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday, setting the stage for revealing the contentious rule later this month.

Renewable fuel advocates are anxious to see what levels EPA has set for ethanol, advanced biofuel and biodiesel for the three years, volumes that dictate how much the biofuels must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply each year.

“We’re pleased to see that the rule appears to be moving on schedule but what’s most important is what’s in it,” Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, said in a statement. “Increasing standards for advanced biofuels like biodiesel really shouldn’t be a difficult decision, so we hope and expect to see stronger growth in the final rule.”

In April, EPA and oil trade groups reached a legal settlement that requires the agency to finalize the annual volume requirements for 2014, 2015 and 2016, as well as the biodiesel mandate for 2017, by Nov. 30 (E&ENews PM, April 10).

EPA’s proposed rule called for year-over-year increases in biofuel mandates but would set lower requirements for refiners than Congress laid out in the 2007 law that created the program (Greenwire, June 3).

The rule’s move to the White House comes as two House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees meet tomorrow to discuss the RFS (E&E Daily, Nov. 2).

The policy, laid out in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, called for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel use by 2022 — 21 billion gallons of which was to be advanced biofuel. Under the statute, EPA has some flexibility to lower the targets on a yearly basis.

Backers of biofuels say the plant-based fuel helps reduce automotive greenhouse gases and revitalizes rural economies, but opponents — including the petroleum industry and some environmental and humanitarian groups — say the policy encourages an unworkable amount of biofuel in the fuel supply, degrades natural environments and affects the price of food.

EPA received a letter from 16 members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Friday urging the agency not to reduce the biofuel requirements under the RFS. The members linked the use of biofuel to improvements in air quality and a higher quality of life in poor, minority communities. The letter also points to the RFS as a job creator.

“In addition to the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gases, we in Congress intended for the RFS to provide an incentive to drive investments in biofuel production and technology,” the letter states. “The RFS is creating jobs and benefitting consumers.”