Senators Call on EPA to Revise RFS Waiver

Group of 31 believes that change in mandate would be "significant step backward"

Dick Durbin

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 26 of their Senate colleagues have sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agency to support the future of biofuels and revise its proposed waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The EPA has proposed a cut in the biofuel mandate in 2014 to 15.21 billion gallons from 18.15 billion gallons.

"The EPA's proposal to decrease ethanol requirements will help drivers by preventing a surge in gas prices or the premature expansion of E15 gasoline sales. While we would like to increase the use of alternative fuels, it is a plain fact that the [RFS's] original targets are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk," Bob Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA, said when the proposed waiver was announced last fall. "The EPA has finally put consumers first. Their proposal will support the continued development of alternative fuels, while also recognizing the needs of the millions of people that drive every day. Today's proposal is an important step in the right direction."

In the opinion of the senators, "the administration's proposal is a significant step backward--undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America's economic future."

In the letter, the senators argue that the RFS "provides the EPA with significant authority to adjust to shifting conditions over the 15-year life of the policy. In any given year, EPA can adjust the advanced biofuel and total biofuel volumes based on anticipated production. While EPA has used the authority to adjust biofuels levels in the past based on anticipated production levels, your proposal, for the first time, adjusts the 2014 overall volumes based on criteria not clearly identified in the law below anticipated production levels of biofuels and even below previous years' RFS levels.

"Further, defining the "blend wall" as blends of E10 and then waiving RFS requirements beyond the blend wall creates significant barriers to future biofuels growth."

The letter continue to lay out the senators' position that "if the rule as proposed were adopted, it will:

  • Replace domestic biofuel production with fossil fuels, contributing to a greater dependence on foreign sources of oil and reduce our energy security.
  • Increase unemployment as renewable fuel producers cut back production.
  • Halt investments in cellulosic, biodiesel and other advanced renewable fuels. Rolling back the RFS will, potentially strand billions of dollars of private capital.
  • Undermine the deployment of renewable fuels infrastructure throughout the country.
  • Threaten the viability of the RFS, thereby solidifying an oil-based transportation sector and lowering consumer choice at the pump.

"With these concerns in mind, we request that EPA revise the proposed 2014 RVOs in a manner that promotes investments in the next generation of biofuels and the infrastructure necessary to deploy those fuels into the market. Without a revised proposal, the EPA's rule will bring severe economic consequences, and prevent the growth of the renewable fuel sector."

The following Senators also signed on to the letter: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Michael Bennet (D-Co.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).