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EPA urged to reject RFS compliance deadline extensions

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Biofuel groups say renewable volume obligations for 2019 and 2020 meaningless if not enforced in a timely manner.

Biofuel groups were united in their testimony Tuesday urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reject calls to delay the Renewable Fuel Standard compliance deadlines for the 2019 and 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations. The comments were made during a virtual hearing on the proposal to extend the deadlines.

At a virtual hearing, industry representatives detailed how EPA should reject calls to delay RFS compliance instead take immediate steps to restore integrity to the RFS and restore lost biofuel demand. Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the proposal just days before the swearing-in of President Joe Biden.

Growth Energy’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Bliley says, “The intent of the RFS is to blend more biofuels into our nation’s transportation fuel supply. Period. It is not meant to have oil companies use questionable legal tactics to avoid blending biofuels and then demanding that the agency further delay compliance.”

Bliley also reminded EPA about the benefits of biofuels as America works toward its clean climate goals, stating, “With recent research showing that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than gasoline, it makes no sense why EPA should continue to exempt oil companies and further delay them from complying with their blending obligations.”

EPA’s proposal would extend the RFS compliance deadline for the 2019 compliance year to November 30, 2021 and extend the RFS compliance deadline for the 2020 compliance year to January 31, 2022.

“To put it briefly, this proposal is one last attempt by the former EPA administrator to undermine the RFS on his way out the door,” says Renewable Fuels Association Chief Economist Scott Richman. “One last favor to oil refiners. One last bit of contorted logic to justify actions contrary to the statute and even to common sense. All that this proposal does is to compound problems that the agency itself created under the former administration—the massive and illegal increase in small refinery exemptions and the failure to finalize the 2021 Renewable Volume Obligations by the statutory deadline.”

Richman pointed out how, in the case of the 2019 compliance deadline, EPA is actually seeking an extension of an extension; nearly a year has passed since the original deadline, and refiners are simply seeking to stall the inevitable. EPA’s continued delays have allowed those refiners who did not use a sufficient volume of biofuels to comply with their 2019 standards to instead buy RIN credits at historically low prices, RFA notes.

“This proposal is unwarranted, and the timelines it contains are excessive,” Richman concludes. “It is reasonable to assume that refiners were planning to meet the regulatory compliance deadline on March 31 and have had ample time to position themselves to do so. The agency should quickly reject the proposed extensions and re-establish integrity in its implementation of the RFS.”

David Cobb, National Biodiesel Board director of federal affairs, testifies that EPA has a statutory duty to ensure that the volumes it sets each year are met. “The renewable volume obligations for 2019 and 2020 will be meaningless if they are not enforced in a timely manner,” he says.

“A timely rule is especially important to biodiesel and renewable diesel producers who rely on the market signals to plan for growth,” Cobb adds. “The RFS program’s intent is to drive growth in production and use of biofuels – particularly advanced biofuels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel. However, the continued delay and now proposed extension of compliance is undermining confidence among program stakeholders and industry investors. Continuing to provide compliance delays to obligated parties without putting forth a 2021 rule only hurts those who the program was designed to support.”

Kolmar is a long-time marketer of biodiesel and other low-carbon fuels, along with other petrochemical and traditional petroleum products. American GreenFuels, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kolmar, is the largest biodiesel plant on the Eastern seaboard, converting waste feedstocks such as used cooking oil into biodiesel.

Testifying on behalf of Kolmar Americas and American GreenFuels, both in Connecticut, Eliias Petersen says, “American GreenFuels and other small businesses rely on market signals from the RFS to guide current and future investment decisions in low-carbon fuel projects. When EPA sends the wrong signals for this program, biodiesel and other low-carbon fuel producers see significant investments put at risk and the RFS objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is blunted.”

He concludes: “This administration has the opportunity to turn the page on the RFS and provide stakeholders true stability and transparency. There is no need to make sweeping changes to compliance deadlines and create shortcomings or delays in other vital RFS rulemakings.”

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