Top energy lawmaker trying to ‘broker’ RFS deal

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014

The top energy House lawmaker is trying to arrange a deal to bring a renewable fuel standard reform bill to the floor this Congress, though the effort faces an uphill battle.

“We’ve been trying to broker an agreement for a while,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a brief interview yesterday in the Capitol.

Over the course of the last year and a half, several members of both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would either reform or repeal the RFS, the federal policy that requires refiners to use increasing amounts of ethanol and advanced biofuels.

One of those many bills could come to the floor as early as next week, likely under a fast-track procedure known as suspension of the rules, but Upton said nothing was set in stone.

“It’s currently a little bit stalled. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “There’s nothing quite ready.”

So far, none of the RFS reform bills introduced this Congress have made it past the committee level. Upton’s committee last year examined the standard through a series of white papers and hearings, but an effort led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) to put together a comprehensive reform bill fizzled out when EPA unexpectedly proposed to lower this year’s biofuel targets.

The chances of getting a reform bill through both the House and Senate before the end of the year, when the current congressional sessions ends, are slim. But a broad coalition of stakeholders representing oil, livestock, anti-poverty and environmental interests has increasingly called on Congress to take up legislation (E&E Daily, July 17).

Upton said one of the bills still being looked at this session is H.R. 875, a measure introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would reverse U.S. EPA’s decision to allow up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline and would compel a study of mid-level ethanol blends.

“People are looking at it. We’ll see what happens,” he said.

The Sensenbrenner legislation passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee last year in a party-line vote. In a brief interview, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he hadn’t heard anything yet about possible bills coming to the floor.

A House majority staffer could not confirm whether an RFS reform bill would be on the floor next week.