Lawmakers on Wednesday discussed EPA's management of the Renewable Fuel Standard in a House Oversight Committee subcommittee hearing, inviting an EPA official to comment on the agency's sluggish announcement of final volumes for the 2014 RFS.
Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, told the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements that RFS volumes for 2014, 2015 and 2016 would be announced in 2015, but she was not able to share a specific month or date with the lawmakers.
Now more than a year after the November 30, 2013, deadline to finalize 2014 RFS volumes, EPA confirmed last month it would postpone release of both the 2014 final volumes and proposed 2015 volumes until next year.
The statute governing the RFS requires the EPA to revisit mandates each year, McCabe noted in her testimony, which also creates a larger regulatory workload.
"Annual rulemaking is a challenging thing to accomplish," McCabe said. "But we do think in 2014 we will be able to resolve the issues to 2016 to get the program back on track."
McCabe noted that several improvements have been made within the agency's handling of the RFS that will likely help processes move smoothly next year, including a revised website and more efficient programs to help fuel producers meet requirements.
Despite the obstacles on the RFS as outlined by McCabe, Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford, R-Okla., and Ranking Member, Jackie Speier, D-Calif., were both critical of the agency's inability to meet statutory deadlines, and of McCabe's inability to provide a concrete timeline for next year's announcements.
Speier said McCabe's promises to move the rules "as soon as possible" in 2015 were "gibberish."
"EPA has to do a better job if the RFS is going to accomplish its goals," Speier said in her opening comments. "EPA must acknowledge it cannot continue its ever-increasing delay in RFS rulemaking."
Speier said the uncertainty could ultimately kill the metaphorical goose that laid the golden egg, referring to investors willing to build upon the biofuels industry and create jobs. "This is no way to run an agency," she said.
Though discussion ranged from the merits of the RFS itself to what Lankford explained as volatility in the Renewable Identification Number markets creating a trickle-down effect on prices for consumers, lawmakers pushed McCabe several times to consider a specific date for a deadline.
"My mother always said a promise isn't a promise unless there's a deadline," said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. He suggested McCabe at least publicize a deadline with EPA employees, even if she isn't willing to share a deadline with the committee.
Speier later encouraged the official to provide lawmakers with a document explaining what the EPA needs to more effectively complete the job of determining RFS volume mandates.
"We want this law to work and if it doesn't work, the 20 or so bills that have already been introduced to repeal or modify it will gain more traction," she warned.
Near the close of the hearing, Lankford suggested additional information would allow the lawmakers to help EPA complete required tasks – in a timely manner.
"I don't know of a single agency that doesn't plan or prepare and doesn't have timelines," Lankford said. "What I find unrealistic is for you to say to us that you don't have any. We all know better."