Pruitt, EPA Should Heed Court Ruling, Boost RFS Biofuel Blending Levels
(25 x ’25 REsource) In a radio interview in Iowa late last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made pretty clear the rational that went into his agency proposing lower levels of cellulosic biofuels, advanced biofuels, and total renewable fuels that would be required for blending under the next Renewable Fuel Standard rule: “Production levels and demand matter.”
Pruitt goes on to express his concern that his agency is being “used in setting those [RFS blending targets] in a way to encourage ‘blue-sky’ thinking.” He is referring to the concept that the standard’s annual blending targets (Renewable Volume Obligations, or RVOs) were set by the 2007 law that reauthorized and strengthened the RFS to encourage oil refiners to build the infrastructure required to meet the blending levels prescribed.
Pruitt’s characterization of EPA and its role in setting the RFS RVOs does not set well with renewable fuel advocates because it seems to run contrary to a federal appellate court ruling earlier this month that found that the EPA was wrong in previous years when it set lower biofuel levels.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that EPA exceeded its authority in previous years when the agency interpreted the law establishing the RFS as giving it the authority to reduce biofuel mandates if it determined there was insufficient infrastructure to deliver it.
Furthermore, the court ruling finds that EPA erred when it allowed the oil industry to control the volumes of renewable fuels offered to consumers, and said the RFS statute does not allow the agency to rely on demand-side factors under the oil industry’s control as a basis for setting annual volumes.
What Pruitt calls “blue-sky thinking” is, in fact, what Congress designed 10 years ago – an RFS program that will drive investment and innovation by providing stability and incentives for the development of clean alternative fuels.
With the public comment period open until Aug. 31 and a final rule set to be adopted by Nov. 30, 25x’25 has submitted remarks to EPA that shares the biofuel industry’s belief that in lowering RVOs of cellulosic biofuels in 2018 and maintaining level biomass-based diesel volumes in 2019, the agency “has ignored the intent of the RFS – establishing a market for a prolonged period of time – and has focused solely on current actual production volumes in setting the yearly RVO targets.” READ MORE