Senators call for higher biodiesel mandates

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thirty-six senators today called on U.S. EPA to boost its proposed yearly requirements for biodiesel use.

In late May, EPA proposed to set the 2014 biodiesel requirement at 1.63 billion gallons and to increase that mandate to 1.9 billion gallons by 2017. Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made out of soybean oil, animal fats and used cooking grease.

The targets were part of a larger proposal setting long-delayed requirements through the federal renewable fuel standard program (Greenwire, May 29).

In their letter today to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the senators called the biodiesel proposal a “positive step” but said they were concerned that it underestimated the amount of biodiesel production in the country in the coming years.

“Based on the biodiesel industry’s projects for future capacity, growth and demand,” the senators wrote, “we believe increases to at least 2 billion gallons in 2016 and at least 2.3 billion gallons in 2017 would be reasonable and prudent.”

Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) led the effort.

The biofuels industry has broadly opposed EPA’s planned renewable fuel targets, but the biodiesel industry has applauded EPA for proposing more robust targets than an initial proposal that was ultimately unsuccessful. EPA is scheduled to close a comment period on the proposal next week and plans to finalize the targets by Nov. 30 under a settlement agreement with oil industry groups.

By law, EPA was supposed to finalize the 2014 biodiesel target by Nov. 30, 2012, and most other targets for that year by Nov. 30, 2013.

In their letter, the senators — many of whom signed onto a letter earlier this year urging robust renewable fuel targets — said that the delays in the annual standards have wreaked havoc on the biodiesel industry.

“EPA’s actions over the past year have led to tremendous uncertainty and hardship for U.S. biodiesel producers and thousands of their employees,” they wrote. “As a result, many plants have been forced to reduce production and some have been forced to shut down.”