Groups Defend Rural America at EPA Hearing

Growth Energy

Today, Growth Energy Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Blileytestified before U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials at the hearing on the agency’s proposed 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Bliley spoke on behalf of the 100 ethanol plants and 91 innovative businesses Growth Energy represents, condemning the agency for providing no avenue to offset refinery exemptions that consistently undercut federal blending goals, disrespecting the court’s decision on the 2016 RVO, and failing to approve pathways for millions of gallons of current cellulosic biofuel production from kernel fiber technology.

In his testimony, Bliley reiterated the industry’s frustrations with the agency’s failure to correct its course on refinery exemptions through annual blending targets: “Once again, the proposal assumes that despite exempting at least 190 million gallons of biofuel every year since 2013, that there will be ZERO gallons exempted in 2020. If EPA is going to waive billions of gallons, it must properly account for those gallons in the RVO calculation, so that demand-loss is not borne by biofuel producers and America’s farmers.”

Bliley also blasted the EPA’s choice to flout the 2017 court ruling requiring the agency to revisit 500 million gallons of biofuel that were inappropriately waived. “Ethanol plants have closed, employees have been laid off, trade has been cut, all on top of farmers’ crops being devastated – and EPA claims it is too difficult for refiners to blend 500 million gallons of biofuel as the law requires,” said Bliley. “What kind of signal does that send to farmers? What message does that send to companies seeking to invest in American biofuels? It speaks volumes.”

The National Corn Growers Association

The National Corn Growers Association today reiterated its call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) whole by accounting for waived ethanol gallons as the agency considers proposed biofuel targets for 2020.

In testimony at an EPA hearing in Ypsilanti, Mich., NCGA Board Member and Ohio farmer John Linder pressed the agency to move forward with a stronger RFS rule that supports America’s farmers, their rural communities, and consumers.

“The proposed rule we are discussing today allows retroactive refinery exemptions to continue to destroy demand for renewable fuels. In addition, the proposal ignores the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision that EPA improperly waived 500 million gallons in 2016,” Linder said.

For 2020, EPA proposes to increase total renewable fuel blending by 120 million gallons and maintain an implied conventional ethanol requirement of 15 billion gallons. The proposal does not take into account EPA’s ongoing practice of providing RFS waivers to big oil companies. These waivers have reduced RFS requirements by 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons, with 38 more exemptions pending.

“These volumes are meaningless amid EPA’s massive expansion of retroactive refinery waivers. Farmers have no confidence EPA will ensure these volumes are met – which the law requires – because EPA fails to account for projected waivers in this proposal,” Linder said.

RFA

The Renewable Fuels Association urged the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that its 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard final rule prospectively accounts for expected small refinery exemptions and properly addresses a 2017 court order to restore 500 million gallons of blending requirements that were illegally waived by EPA in 2016.

The agency’s proposed rule, published in Monday’s Federal Register, failed to adequately address small refiner exemptions or the court order, stoking fears across the renewable fuels industry that EPA-induced demand destruction could continue in 2020.
“Unfortunately, the market has no faith that the proposed 2020 renewable volume obligations will result in biofuel blending volumes consistent with the RFS standards set by law, including the 15-billion-gallon conventional renewable fuel requirement,” RFA Chief Economist Scott Richman said. “It is a misnomer to call the numbers in the proposal ‘obligations’ as long as small refinery exemptions (SREs) continue to transform the RFS into a voluntary program for roughly one-third of the nation’s refineries.”
Saying that EPA’s proposed rule betrays President Trump’s commitment to uphold the RFS, Richman noted that EPA approved 54 SREs retroactively for compliance years 2016 and 2017, which caused ethanol consumption and the ethanol blend rate to fall in 2018 for the first time in 20 years. Not a single exemption request has been denied by EPA since 2015, he said, and 38 petitions for compliance year 2018 are still pending.
Making matters worse, Richman said, EPA’s proposal incomprehensibly ignores the D.C. Circuit Court’s 2017 order requiring the Agency to restore 500 million gallons it illegally waived from the 2016 RVO. “EPA’s claim that ‘there are very limited opportunities to use biofuels beyond the volumes we are proposing for 2020’ echoes the Agency’s reasoning in its 2016 rule that was specifically rejected by the court.”
“Congress gave EPA the direction and tools necessary to enforce the statutory RFS volumes,” Richman concluded. “That includes prospectively redistributing volumes from SREs to non-exempt parties. It also includes complying with a court order to restore illegally waived volumes from 2016. We urge EPA to do both in the final rule.”