US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt backs off biodiesel cuts in RFS

By Ron Kotrba | October 20, 2017

In a letter addressed to seven U.S. senators on Oct. 19, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced two important biodiesel-related developments in the ongoing rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Pruitt noted that while it would be inappropriate for the agency to prejudge the outcome of the final rule for 2018-’19 volumes, he wrote, “Preliminary analysis suggests that all of the final [renewable volume obligations (RVOs)] should be set at amounts that are equal to or greater than the proposed amounts, including at least 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019.”

This announcement appears to effectively nullify the EPA’s Notice of Data Availability, which was announced Sept. 26 and sought ways to go beyond its July proposal to stall 2019 volumes of biomass-based diesel at 2.1 billion gallons by seeking comment on ways to reduce 2018 biodiesel volumes previously established by the Obama administration, along with reducing—rather than just stalling—2019 biodiesel volumes.

“It’s a great day for Iowa and a great day for rural America,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “Administrator Pruitt should be commended for following through on President Trump’s commitment to biofuels and the RFS.”

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, said it is encouraging that EPA is backing away from its plan to cut biofuel blend levels. “The RFS keeps this home-grown source energy competitive, which is why I led a bipartisan effort to speak out against proposed cuts,” Heitkamp said. “It’s encouraging the administration listened.”

“Simply not making further cuts to proposed levels that were already too low is not enough,” said Monty Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “To live up to the letter and spirit of the RFS in the final rule, the EPA must increase levels for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol from what was proposed in July.”

The National Biodiesel Board said although the association appreciates that further cuts won’t be pursued, volumes higher than 2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel are warranted and must be granted for the industry to continue to grow. “The letter from Administrator Pruitt doesn’t commit to an increase in biomass-based diesel volumes,” NBB told Biodiesel Magazine. “Any potential cuts to advanced biofuels and flatlined biomass-based diesel volumes spell trouble for many of our smaller producers and the larger agricultural economy. We will continue to work closely with the EPA and the White House to demonstrate that a robust biodiesel industry is what the law requires and is good for the economy, American jobs and consumers.”

In the letter, Pruitt also said he would direct the agency to finalize in the next 30 days a rule denying moving the RFS point of obligation from refiners and importers to blenders. “The record demonstrates that granting that petition would not be appropriate,” Pruitt stated.

“I’m also glad EPA is backing away from any attempt to change the point of obligation,” Grassley said. “Doing so would have financially burdened local retailers and other small businesses across the country.”

 
 
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