Democratic senators tell EPA to set strong biodiesel RFS standard

By The Office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp | May 07, 2015

U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Al Franken, D-Minn., called on the U.S. EPA May 7 to set strong renewable volume obligations (RVOs) required under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) that provides long-needed certainty to farmers and workers in the biodiesel industry while helping domestic producers grow. They also pressed the EPA to live up to its legal obligation of ending its years-long delay of setting RVOs.

The senators specifically pressed the EPA to set strong biodiesel RVOs—for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017—to get the RFS back on track and put people back to work. The senators’ call comes on the heels of the EPA’s newly announced timetable for finalizing RVOs—if the agency’s new Nov. 30, 2015, deadline for a final rule is adhered to, the EPA will be almost three years late for biodiesel standards. This week, the EPA sent a draft of the RVO levels to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget—the final step before a draft rule is released—showing that the agency is prioritizing a reliable timetable for renewable fuel industry certainty.

Together with producers from Imperium Renewables based outside of Seattle, Washington, as well as producers from Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the country’s largest renewable fuels producers based in Velva, North Dakota, the Senators expressed deep concern with the detrimental impact the agency’s failure to provide guidance to date has already had—including forcing ADM to halt its biodiesel production in January through mid-March. They pressed the EPA to keep up with its current timeline and not issue another delay of the rule.

“For years, critical jobs that spur economic growth and help significantly reduce greenhouse gases have been reduced or uncertain because the EPA has failed to live up to its legal duty,” said Heitkamp. “Our farmers and families—who rely on biodiesel in fields and factories across this country—are hurting because fuel standards that establish certainty in this industry have been left in the dark. And no job in this country should hang in the balance simply because a federal regulatory agency is dragging its feet or is failing to live up to its legal responsibility to promote confidence and growth. That’s why I’m leading my Democratic colleagues today in pushing the EPA to set strong fuel levels that allow producers to plan ahead and give our farmers and workers the support they need. Too many workers and too many families stand to suffer from further delays—and the agency needs to get back on track.”

“I’ve spoken with Illinois’ stakeholders—from industry experts to local corn growers—and they all agree: the renewable fuels standard is working,” said Durbin. “And it has the potential to work even better. Illinois has the capacity to produce more than 160 million gallons of biodiesel. But the industry won’t grow when there is no market certainty. The EPA should act quickly to put forth robust RFS requirements for 2014 and beyond. Further delays risk our nation’s energy independence, our environment, and rural America’s economic future.”

"With some of the most expensive gasoline prices in the country, Washington state understands the importance of diversifying our transportation sector, such as with biofuels,” said Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “We need to provide policy stability so the biofuels industry can grow. We must do more to help an emerging industry grow, rather than simply subsidizing a mature one.”

“Homegrown renewable fuels are a win-win-win: they help spur innovation in our economy, strengthen our country’s energy security, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Klobuchar. “The renewable fuel standard has played a key role in expanding the use of these fuels, and we need to do everything we can to build on those efforts—not slam on the brakes. That’s why I recently led a bipartisan coalition of senators pushing the EPA to maintain a strong RFS, and why I am fighting to create certainty for our biofuel industry that helps power Minnesota’s economy.”

“Businesses like White Mountain Biodiesel in New Hampshire shouldn’t be forced to wait years to know what the market will be for their product,” said Shaheen. “The biodiesel industry is creating local jobs, through local resources, while at the same time reducing pollution. White Mountain, and many other biodiesel producers across the country, are eager to expand their operations and contribute to our nation’s energy security.  This industry needs a strong rule that reflects biodiesel’s tremendous potential with its numerous economic and environmental benefits. The stalling on the Renewable Fuel Standard needs to stop.” 

“Homegrown renewable energy, like biodiesel, creates jobs and boosts economic development in Minnesota and across the country,” said Franken, a member of the Senate Energy Committee. “And at the same time, it strengthens our national energy security by cutting our reliance on foreign oil. That's why we need to reaffirm our commitment to renewables right now, and we can start by getting strong numbers in place for biodiesel production under the renewable fuel standard. Our farmers and rural communities deserve nothing less.”

The jobs of 62,000 Americans nationwide depend on the biodiesel industry—an industry that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent compared to petroleum diesel. According to the National Biodiesel Board, since November 2012, 54 biodiesel plants in 30 states have closed or idled because of the lack of certainty from the EPA. In 2014, nearly 80 percent of U.S. biodiesel producers scaled back production, and almost six in 10 idled production altogether.  

In February, many of these Senators joined a bipartisan group in calling on the EPA to set biodiesel production levels for 2014, 2015, and 2016. Click here to read the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

 

 

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