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EPA delays final RFS decision until 2015

EPA will not be finalizing 2014 volume standards under the RFS program before the end of 2014.

Friday the Environmental Protection Agency said it would not be finalizing 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements before the end of 2014.

EPA said due to the delay in finalizing the standards for 2014, and given ongoing consideration of the issues presented by the commenters, the agency intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015.

On November 29, 2013, EPA published a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish the 2014 RFS standards. “The proposal has generated significant comment and controversy, particularly about how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption than had been forecast at the time that the Energy Independence and Security Act was enacted, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes should be waived,” said the notice from Janet G. McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation.

The announcement means that EPA will miss its statutory deadline by more than a year.  According to the statute, EPA is supposed to finalize each year's RFS rule by the previous November. EPA has not issued the volumes on time since 2009, although in 2011 the final rule was just 2 weeks late. In 2013 the final rule was nine months late.

“Looking forward, one of EPA’s objectives is to get back on the annual statutory timeline by addressing 2014, 2015, and 2016 standards in the next calendar year,” EPA said in an emailed statement to Feedstuffs.  

The indecision and delay received complaints from both sides of the aisle which state the action inserts more uncertainty into the market.

The National Corn Growers Assn. said that corn prices have fallen this year after a second record crop in two years.  “Our members have been frustrated by the uncertainty and delays surrounding the RFS,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president.

"This seesaw process by which the EPA proposes an up-and-down, now-and-later moving target as the compliance year unfolds leaves poultry and livestock producers unable to plan and budget effectively," said National Chicken Council president Mike Brown.  "While corn prices have moderated, volatility and uncertainty are the true business-killers."

Brown also noted that all of the numbers this year show that the biofuels industry has flourished, effectively without an RFS mandate, which is clear evidence the RFS is no longer needed. 

American Soybean Assn. president Ray Gaesser said, “The continued delays create great uncertainty for the biodiesel industry and soybean farmers and limits the industry’s ability to invest and expand.” Biodiesel producers were caught off guard with the low proposed 2014 volume levels and continue to call for a final 2014 rule that sets the biomass-based diesel volumes at or above the nearly 1.8 billion gallons that were produced and consumed in the U.S. in 2013.

Many supporters of the RFS said the decision to delay the final rule release proves the proposal was flawed.

Growth Energy chief executive officer Tom Buis, said, “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.”

On the flip side, those opposed to the RFS said the action demonstrates that “EPA, because of statutory and political considerations, cannot fix the failure of the RFS,” a statement from National Council of Chain Restaurants executive director Rob Green said.

A final 2014 level proposal as well as the 2015 proposal is projected to be proposed by Feb. 2015.

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