On November 28, the state of Iowa's new Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board (RFIB) met to distribute funds and implement rules to help carry out the Iowa Renewable Fuels Standard that was enacted by the Legislature earlier this year.
"The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is very pleased that the board issued 18 more grants to help install E85 and biodiesel infrastructure facilities around the state," says Mindy Larsen-Poldberg, ICGA's director of government relations. This brings the total to 27 new Iowa projects, using nearly $650,000 of the cost-share money in this program.
However, one important issue still remaining is how long must a retailer be required to offer E85 or biodiesel if they receive grant money.
Program fosters E85, biodiesel availability
At the September meeting, ICGA supported a compromise position based on a four-year sliding scale (the old program required four years) plus a waiver requirement. In order to stop selling E85 or biodiesel, a retailer would have to come before the board and ask for a waiver and show two things: First, that they sold the product in "good faith," and second, that their business would experience "financial hardship" if required to continue selling E85 or biodiesel. In September, this issue was tabled.
"This waiver issue is important because contracts will be written in the next few weeks for these grants that were awarded last week," says Larsen-Poldberg. "Without the required waiver in the rules, the Iowa Department of Economic Development's interpretation is that after three years and one day, a retailer can convert to nonrenewable fuel without showing cause or obtaining board permission. ICGA believes the law does not support this interpretation."
After some debate at the November 28 meeting, the RFIB board again tabled this issue until their next meeting, which will not be until February 22. Opposing the motion to table included the ICGA, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Grocers Association and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. The RFIB rules eventually will go to the state Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee.
Renewable Fuel Board is making progress
Despite having met only three times, the RFIB has accomplished much to improve consumer access to renewable fuels in Iowa, says Yvonne Wente. She is a farmer from Waverly, Iowa, who is the Iowa Soybean Association's representative on the RFIB. She is also vice-chairman of the RFIB.
"Since it's startup in September, the RFIB has elected its leaders, established operational schedules, approved its governing rules, approved some grant applications and awarded more than $600,000 in cost share, renewable fuel infrastructure projects," says Wente.
Wente is very proud of the progress being made by the group. "We have met only a few times, and despite a short organizational time frame, we are accomplishing what we intended to do. That is, get funding out to the countryside as quickly as possible in a way that ensures quality projects. As a soybean and corn producer, I am pleased with what we've accomplished to promote biodiesel and ethanol, and to make these fuels more available to consumers in Iowa."