Biodiesel Producers Slam EPA at Hearing on Renewable Fuel Standard

Eric Miller/Transport Topics

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it wanted to hear what the public thought of its 2018 proposed renewable fuel standard volume minimums, and many of those who came here to comment voiced displeasure with the agency’s plans.

Supporters of biomass-based and advanced biodiesel wanted higher production requirements, oil producers asked for the agency to reduce or even eliminate ethanol blends in gasoline, and representatives from such conservative-leaning groups as Campaign for Liberty and Frontiers of Freedom simply thought the idea of forcing Americans to use renewable fuels was misguided.

The public hearing Aug. 1 — held at a hotel on Capitol Hill — was not unlike others EPA has hosted in past years. At this one, some of those taking the alloted three minutes to testify to EPA officials voiced concerns that the Trump administration is beginning to put the brakes on sustained attempts by Congress to steadily increase the supply of renewable fuels for both environmental and energy security reasons.

In introductory remarks, Paul Machiele, director of EPA’s Fuels Center, said the agency has the authority to reduce Renewable Fuel Standard program volume targets and planned to do so in response to such “circumstances” as market conditions and projected volumes of available fuel.



The EPA proposal would in 2018 set the advanced biofuels requirement based on a minimum applicable volume of 4.24 billion gallons, a decrease from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017. Likewise, the overall production level of renewable fuel minimum volumes would drop to 19.24 billion gallons in 2018 from 19.28 in 2017.

But what seemed to concern biodiesel producers the most was keeping the minimum required biomass-based diesel volumes at 2.1 billion gallons for 2019, the same level as 2018. (The biomass-based diesel requirement is set a year in advance. The 2018 level was set last year.)

EPA was not commenting on the more than three hours of testimony, but EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said, “We appreciate all the comments at today’s hearing and will continue to listen to and engage with all relevant stakeholders on the Renewable Fuels Standard.”

The agency is accepting written comments on the RFS production targets proposal through Aug. 31.The final rule setting the 2018 targets will be completed by the end of Novembe, according to EPA.

Kent Engelbrecht, an executive with Archer Daniels Midland Co. and chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, said that EPA should set the minimum at 2.75 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel for 2019, rather than EPA’s proposed target of 2.1 billion gallons.

“The long-term success of the program is based on, as Congress intended, increasing volumes,” Engelbrecht told EPA.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said the 2.1 billion gallon level for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019 makes little sense since last year there were more than 2.6 billion gallons of biodiesel produced in the United States.

Engelbrecht (far left), Steckel and other panelists. (Eric Miller/Transport Topics)

“It’s extremely important that this law remain forward-looking,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council. “We seem to have returned to a situation where we’re not looking forward, but we’re looking backward.”

Steve Nogel, of Ag Processing Inc., told EPA that the RFS represents one of the nation’s most successful climate and energy policies.

“Certainty for the biodiesel industry is needed moving forward to ensure its continuing investment and growth,” Nogel said. “But the proposed levels for 2019 are well below what our industry produced in 2016. We urge you to do all you can to continue to grow this vital industry in a responsible manner.”

Robert Morton of Newport Biodiesel said his small company needs EPA’s help in a “difficult and unstable marketplace.”

“The fact that EPA has proposed no increase for biomass-based diesel for 2019, and a reduction for advanced biofuel, indicates that the government is not taking an aggressive approach,” Morton said.

Tom Brooks, general manager of Iowa-based Western Dubuque Biodiesel, said his company is in discussions to double its capacity.

“This could be done in six months, if we had confidence and certainty from this administration holding this hearing today,” Brooks said. “EPA’s most recent proposal is a step in the wrong direction and provides little or no growth for biodiesel.

“The cut sends a signal to the market, telling investors the U.S. renewables fuel industry will no longer grow, which could be devastating to our industry.”

“It’s extremely important that this law remain forward-looking,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council. “We seem to have returned to a situation where we’re not looking forward, but we’re looking backward.”

Steve Nogel, of Ag Processing Inc., told EPA that the RFS represents one of the nation’s most successful climate and energy policies.

“Certainty for the biodiesel industry is needed moving forward to ensure its continuing investment and growth,” Nogel said. “But the proposed levels for 2019 are well below what our industry produced in 2016. We urge you to do all you can to continue to grow this vital industry in a responsible manner.”

Robert Morton of Newport Biodiesel said his small company needs EPA’s help in a “difficult and unstable marketplace.”

“The fact that EPA has proposed no increase for biomass-based diesel for 2019, and a reduction for advanced biofuel, indicates that the government is not taking an aggressive approach,” Morton said.

Tom Brooks, general manager of Iowa-based Western Dubuque Biodiesel, said his company is in discussions to double its capacity.

“This could be done in six months, if we had confidence and certainty from this administration holding this hearing today,” Brooks said. “EPA’s most recent proposal is a step in the wrong direction and provides little or no growth for biodiesel.

“The cut sends a signal to the market, telling investors the U.S. renewables fuel industry will no longer grow, which could be devastating to our industry.”

 

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