IN an effort to urge changes to the proposed renewable fuel standard (RFS) 2014 rule, a bipartisan group of 16 senators met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy Dec. 18.
The senators contend that EPA's proposed rule would hurt the biofuel industry by lowering the biodiesel target below current industry production levels and reduce the conventional ethanol target by more than 1 billion gal., discouraging investment and hurting jobs and rural communities across the country.
The group was led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and also included Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Tim Johnson (D., S.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), John Thune (R., S.D.), Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), Al Franken (D., Minn.), Dan Coats (R., Ind.), John Hoeven (R., N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.).
EPA's proposed rule would set the biodiesel target at 1.28 billion gal., which is below current industry production levels of around 1.7 billion gal. It would also reduce the conventional ethanol target to 13.0 billion gal. — 800 million gal. below the 2013 target of 13.8 billion gal. and 1.4 billion gal. below the 2014 statutory target of 14.4 billion gal.
Franken, who chairs the energy subcommittee, said he urged the head of EPA to rethink the Administration's "shortsighted proposal to cut the renewable fuel standard because it undermines efforts to advance the next generation of renewable fuels. We need to find ways to expand our commitment to renewable energy, not pull back from it."
Grassley and Fischer both said they were pleased by McCarthy's willingness to listen to the senators' concerns face to face.
"I tried to impress upon her that while President (Barack) Obama and his Administration have claimed to be in favor of domestic biofuels, this proposal is a step backward and will harm our efforts to further diversify our fuel supply," Grassley said.
Fischer noted that, during the meeting, she raised concerns she has heard from her constituents in Nebraska and highlighted the need for increased certainty for the agriculture industry.
"I hope to continue this constructive dialogue with the administrator. Our constituents deserve a voice in this ongoing debate," she added.
During McCarthy's confirmation hearing, Fischer stressed the need for the new administrator to improve EPA's understanding of the agriculture industry and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with lawmakers regarding any new agency rules or regulations.
Klobuchar said the RFS "has driven growth and innovation in the renewable fuels industry. At a time when the oil industry continues to receive billions in unnecessary subsidies, it simply does not make sense to create so much uncertainty in a sector that has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil and is vital to our rural economy."