A broad coalition of biofuel and farm advocates have sent a letter to the White House this week calling on President Trump to fix a flawed proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which “fails in its mission to reinvigorate farm economies and reopen biofuel plants across America’s heartland.” The letter was signed by 60 organizations, including the American Soybean Association (ASA) and 17 state soybean affiliates. It notes that the EPA’s draft plan undermines the administration’s commitment to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and accurately account for biofuel demand destroyed by Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs).
“The flawed proposal swaps out a critical component of the SRE remedy sought by farmers and the biofuels industry,” wrote farm and biofuel leaders. “Instead of recovering the gallons exempted by EPA, it proposes to recover only those gallons previously recommended for exemption by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This one EPA modification converts a commitment to fully account for SREs into a bureaucratically uncertain path that recovers only one fraction of those gallons lost to SREs and could result in RFS backsliding in 2020. This lack of certainty sabotages efforts toward market recovery and will stop biorefineries from reopening.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) supplemental proposed rule would indeed estimate future exempted Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes, but not as a 3-year rolling average based on actual volumes previously lost through small refinery exemptions (SREs). That solution was supported by the industry to keep the pesky waivers – piling up year after year – from undermining the intent of the RFS.
The White House, EPA, and USDA reached a deal Oct. 4 that would update the already-announced 2020 renewable volume standards and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021 under the RFS program. That deal does not directly change the volumes but instead adjusts the way annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated – and what can be exempted due to small refinery waivers. But details of the plan have been pending—and the devil may be in those details for farmers and other biofuel industry members anxious for change.
“Details announced today confirm EPA is considering a new plan in which only lost gallons previously forecast by the Department of Energy (DOE) would be restored to the marketplace going forward, with no value given to the actual gallons waived by EPA. Relying on DOE forecasts does not assure rural stakeholders, the markets, or investors that EPA is going to abide by the President’s intentions going forward and truly protect RFS volumes,” said Rob Shaffer, chair of ASA’s Biodiesel and Infrastructure Committee.
SREs are issued by EPA after consultation with DOE, but concern stems from EPA’s ability to ignore DOE recommendations. A public hearing on the proposed rule will be held Oct. 30, followed by a 30-day comment period.
Shaffer continued, “ASA will be carefully reviewing the written proposal released by EPA today. We are very concerned that this proposal does not fulfill the agreement reached between the White House, EPA, USDA, and biofuel stakeholders as it was announced last week. ASA will not support any attempt by EPA to undermine the President’s commitments, which we continue to appreciate.”