Democratic senators rally for RFS support as volumes go to OMB

Democratic senators rally for RFS support as volumes go to OMB

EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard volume proposals go to the Office of Management and Budget

A group of Senators led Thursday by Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the EPA should be supporting policies that promote job growth in the U.S. and provide certainty for biodiesel producers.

Related: Senators want EPA to revisit 2014 RFS volume proposal

Joined by Kent Engelbrecht, manager of the biodiesel division at Archer Daniels Midland Company, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Al Franken, D-Minn., Heitkamp called for the EPA to set strong Renewable Volume Obligations required under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard volume proposals go to the Office of Management and Budget as Democratic senators cite lost biofuel industry jobs as support for strong volume requirements. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After several delays in releasing RFS RVOs – about nine months late issuing the 2013 renewable volume obligations and more than 17 months late in issuing the 2014 rule –  EPA in April committed to a timetable for RVO release.

The agency said it would issue the proposed 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and will finalize the 2014 and 2015 RFS RVOs by Nov. 30, 2015. EPA announced that it will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The proposals have now moved to the Office of Management and Budget, a final step before release, but damage has been done, Heitkamp and others said.

Heitkamp expressed deep concern with impacts of sluggish approvals – including forcing ADM to halt its Velva, N.D., biodiesel production in January through mid-March.

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According to ADM, the facility in Velva has the capacity to produce 85 million gallons of biodiesel annually and serve as a major economic engine for the state.

"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," Heitkamp said. "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," she said.

Related: Biofuels groups differ on Renewable Fuel Standard overhaul

The group of senators said the EPA should retain strong volume obligations for biodiesel, which support jobs in the U.S.

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% of U.S. biodiesel producers scaled back production, and almost 6 in 10 idled production altogether.

Advanced biofuels and cellulosic ethanol producers also are advocating for a speedier timeline on the RFS – a group representing the industry earlier this week noted that the timelines have created hurdles for cellulosic production right at the time it was reaching commercial deployment.

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