Industry in Full Court Press on DC Priorities

Donnell Rehagen, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, discusses policy priorities in his column from the Inside NBB section of our Fall 2017 print issue of Biodiesel Magazine.
By Donnell Rehagen | October 17, 2017

I’ve spent many winter weekends in gyms around the Midwest coaching youth basketball teams my kids were a part of. With competitive teams playing in big-time tournaments, we often found ourselves in close games heading into the fourth quarter. Time to turn up the pressure. As we move into the final minutes of 2017, the National Biodiesel Board is doing the same thing on our D.C. efforts—putting on the full court press to get the win.

Our big three in D.C. remain the Renewable Fuel Standard, the trade case and the biodiesel tax incentive. All three issues require a comprehensive, multifaceted approach made up of advocacy efforts in Congress, various federal agencies and legal work. And all require significant efforts.

With the stakes this high, I have taken an expanded role in day-to-day D.C. operations and NBB Chief Operating Officer Doug Whitehead has taken up residence in the district, working full time from our Washington office to orchestrate our expansive, skilled team of staff and contractor resources. Also in this critical time, we have stepped up coordination of D.C. assets of NBB member companies through weekly meetings and near-daily communication. This allows the industry to laser focus our efforts into the most effective strategies and utilize our combined skills, connections and resources for the greater good of the industry.

The 45-day comment period on the RVO proposal closed in September with the final rule due Nov. 30. Our extensive comments, guided by the membership, called for higher volumes of both advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel in the final rule. Our more than 100 pages of comments and supporting documents highlight that our industry can do much more than the proposed 2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel in 2019 and 4.24 billion gallons of advanced biofuel for 2018. We are extremely concerned with the proposed rule’s unprecedented cut to the advanced biofuel volume and freeze in the biomass-based diesel volume. Both proposals run counter to Congress’ objectives to promote the growth of advanced biofuels like biodiesel. Now that the comment period has closed, our efforts have shifted to discussions directly with the administration, including EPA, USDA, DOE, and directly with the White House.

The antidumping and countervailing duty petitions against Argentina and Indonesia continue to progress. In late August, the industry saw a favorable preliminary determination on the countervailing duty case as the U.S. Department of Commerce found those countries’ subsidies to be in violation of international trade rules. The preliminary determination in the companion antidumping investigations is expected in October. Final commerce department determinations will be issued later this year for countervailing duties and in early 2018 for antidumping, with final determinations by the U.S. International Trade Commission soon after. The industry continues to work with the ITC to advance the case, including a standard public hearing set for Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. These cases are critical to competitiveness of U.S. biodiesel producers and work in concert with our other efforts.

And finally, the biodiesel tax incentive, our longest-running federal priority, continues to move forward. There hasn’t been as much public discussion around the tax incentive since May when the ‘‘American Renewable Fuel and Job Creation Act of 2017’’ was introduced in both the House and Senate, but plenty continues to be done to position ourselves for any possible legislative vehicle for tax policy. In the Senate, S. 944, is led by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington. The companion legislation H.R. 2383 mirrors the Senate bill and is led by U.S. Reps. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, and Bill Pascrell, D-New Jersey. Comprehensive tax reform, budget negotiations, and even a tax extenders package are all viable options to move our incentive forward before the end of the year.

I continue to believe that you—the biodiesel industry—are your own best advocates. But you don’t have to do it alone. NBB’s team includes key contracts with seasoned D.C. veterans including the American Soybean Association’s Tom Hance, former Sen. Byron Dorgan, Tim Urban and Donna Flynn of Washington Council Ernst & Young, former Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Kit Bond Strategies, Jim Massie at Alpine Group, the legal teams at Morgan Lewis and Cassidy Levy Kent, and significant new resources just brought on board to bolster our efforts including the Carmen Group and Sextons Creek.

By pooling the resources of the biodiesel industry into concentrated efforts lead by NBB, we gain a comprehensive and coordinated advocacy and regulatory effort that gets results. A full court press, on the basketball court and in our Washington, D.C., efforts, is designed to turn up the pressure in crunch time. As the clock ticks down on 2017, I’m confident our increased intensity, effort and focus will yield wins for biodiesel.

Donnell Rehagen
National Biodiesel Board

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