Regan promises ‘no surprises’ in EPA’s administration of the RFS

By Erin Voegele | February 03, 2021

Michael Regan, President Biden’s nominee to serve as administrator of the U.S. EPA, said the Renewable Fuel Standard will be a priority for the new administration and stressed agriculture will have a seat at the table when it comes to Biden’s climate objectives during his Feb. 3 appearance before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“You have my commitment that we will take a look at the RFS program and we will introduce some transparency into that program,” he told committee members. “We will let science lead us and we will follow the letter of the law as it was intended for that program. President Biden has not been shy that agriculture will have a seat at the table as we tackle climate, and he’s been specifically focused on biofuels and advanced biofuels. One of the first conversations I had upon my nomination was reaching out to [Agriculture Secretary nominee] Tom Vilsack to talk about how we can partner together to pursue these efforts, so you have my commitment in this area.”

Regarding small refinery exemptions (SREs), Regan committed to fully following the law and being fully transparent. “I’m not sure that either side understands how these decisions were arrived to,” he said in reference to past SREs, and assured members of the committee that the EPA, under his leadership, will use a deliberate process to evaluate SRE petitions and communicate with Congress so that lawmakers understand the decisions that are made.

Regan also expressed understanding that many elements of the RFS program need the attention of the EPA. “RFS is definitely a priority for this administration,” he said. “I recognize that there will be a number of things sitting on the desk if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed.” He said he wants to sit down with EPA staff and legal council to evaluate components of the program that are caught up in litigation. He stressed that more transparency is needed in the program, and that he needs to find out more about past decisions that have been made, and work to ensure that the latest science formed the basis for those decisions. “We plan to do a thorough review of all the decisions that fit under the umbrella of the RFS, but we don’t plan to do that without consultation with you and with other stakeholder that will be impacted by these decisions,” he told the committee members. “What I can promise you is we will take a no surprises approach. We will be extremely transparent, we will be forthcoming with the science and the data and the legal determinations that we come to in order to make those decisions, and we’ll share those decisions with you.”

When asked specifically about the immense backlog of pathway applications currently pending under the RFS, Regan committed to spending time with his staff looking at that backlog and working on a process of efficiency so the agency can make up for lost time. He also discussed the importance of protecting the integrity of renewable identification numbers (RINs) used for RFS compliance.

Regan also fielded questions on a wide variety of other EPA programs during the hearing, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), the Clean Power Plan and ACE rule, and fuel efficiency standards.

He said the agency will look at the plans for both the CPP and ACE Rule and said there is a significant opportunity for the EPA to start with a clean slate and find the best way to move forward. He also stressed it will be important to convene all parties relevant to the discussion, think about how to harness the power and authority of the Clean Air Act in concert with major investments that should be made government-wide and the input from those who will be impacted by any potential actions the agency takes—whether through a rulemaking or voluntary program. As part of its process, Regan said the EPA will look at and determine the commercial viability of CCS. One of the benefits of starting fresh, he said, is the ability to incorporate the enormous strides in technological advancements that have been made over the past few years, including those related to CCS.

The American Coalition for Ethanol is encouraging ethanol advocates to utilize the confirmation process as an opportunity to engage their senators on ethanol issues that they can raise in front of nominees. “If confirmed as EPA Administrator, Mr. Regan inherits a long list of unfinished business with respect to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS),” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “We are grateful for Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and others for raising our priorities with Mr. Regan, and we appreciate his commitments to ‘fully follow the law,’ ‘apply the latest science,’ and provide greater ‘transparency’ about the decisions EPA makes regarding ethanol and the RFS.

“We also appreciate Mr. Regan acknowledging agriculture and biofuel will have a seat at the table in climate discussions,” Jennings continued. “According to the latest science, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 50 percent compared to gasoline. There’s obviously a lot of emphasis on the role electric vehicles will play in our future, but most experts agree net-zero emissions by mid-century is impossible without increased reliance on low carbon fuels such as ethanol.”

A full replay of the hearing is available on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works website



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