EPA Puts Off Finalizing Renewable Fuel Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will delay issuing the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) until 2015.

According to a news release issued Friday and signed by Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, the agency initially published a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish 2014 RFS standards on Nov. 29, 2013. However, the proposal generated "significant comment and controversy," particularly about how volumes should be set due to lower gasoline consumption.

"Most notably, commenters expressed concerns regarding the proposal’s ability to ensure continued progress toward achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by the statute," the news release said. "EPA has been evaluating these issues in light of the purposes of the statute and the Administration’s commitment to the goals of the statute to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, which will reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from the consumption of transportation fuels and diversify the nation’s fuel supply."

The EPA now intends to take action on the 2014 RFS prior to or in conjunction with its 2015 standards rule, according to the announcement. 

News of the delay was met with mixed reactions. Applauding the decision was ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy.

“The EPA made the appropriate decision today to not finalize the 2014 RVO numbers. We commend them for listening to all stakeholders," responded Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "Today’s announcement is a clear acknowledgement that the EPA’s proposed rule was flawed from the beginning. There was no way the methodology in the proposed rule would ever work, as it went against the very purpose and policy goals of the RFS. The EPA wisely decided not to finalize the rule so they could fix the flawed methodology."

Buis added that the decision is a win for the renewable fuels industry and while a further delay in issuing the 2014 RFS is unwelcome, the "most important aspect is that the EPA gets the final rule right."

On the other side of the issue, the National Council of Chain Restaurants spoke out Friday in opposition of the EPA's decision.

“This unbelievable non-announcement demonstrates once and for all that the EPA, because of statutory and political considerations, cannot fix the failure of the RFS," said Rob Green, executive director of the trade organization. “Members of Congress should take note. The federal RFS ethanol mandate is irrevocably broken and needs to be repealed immediately. It is time that Congress take the RFS ‘off the menu’ once and for all.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the first renewable fuel volume mandate in the United States. The program was expanded significantly under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

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