Biofuel plant at sunset i-Stockr/ThinkstockPhoto

33 senators ask Trump administration to increase U.S. biodiesel volumes

EPA has proposed holding biomass-based diesel volume stagnant for 2019.

A bipartisan group of senators are calling on the Trump administration to increase the amount of biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply.

U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led a bipartisan group of 29 other senators urging the Environmental Protection Agency to increase its proposed 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for biodiesel to encourage growth in the industry and diversify the nation’s energy supply, and to abandon its effort to reduce biofuel production in 2018. 

The EPA has proposed holding the biomass-based diesel volume stagnant for 2019 and reducing the advanced biofuel volume for 2018. These proposed volumes leave potential growth in the industry on the table and could cause near-term job losses in rural America.

“The industry is poised for growth, in accordance with the intent of the law, if EPA sends the market signals with increased volumes. Reducing volumes and especially those RVOs that were previously finalized is disruptive, unprecedented, and very troubling,” the senators wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The senators continued, “We have made great progress through the RFS in diversifying our nation’s fuel supply while creating and sustaining jobs, strengthening local economies, generating tax revenues, and improving energy security. We urge you to support higher RVOs for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels in the final rule to encourage additional development and use of this fuel.”

According to a study conducted last year by LMC International and released by the National Biodiesel Board, the 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel used by Americans in 2015 supported 47,400 jobs and $1.9 billion in wages, and had an $8.4 billion economic impact. 

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

We write in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for advanced biofuel for calendar year 2018 and biomass-based diesel for calendar year 2019, as well as the recent Notice of Data Availability (NODA). The NODA requests comments on reducing previously finalized RVOs, threatening business plans and investments already made based upon a final rule issued in December 2016. These proposed volumes do not meet actual biodiesel production capacity in the United States, and could have a negative impact on jobs and economies in rural communities across the nation. Therefore, we urge you to increase these volumes in the final rule. 

Biodiesel is the first EPA-designated advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to reach commercial scale production nationwide. The biodiesel industry has met RFS criteria for growth each year, exceeding the goals that Congress envisioned when it created the RFS with bipartisan support. In addition, biodiesel has consistently made up the majority of the advanced biofuel volumes. This ability to meet or exceed RVOs coupled with the substantial investment made by the biodiesel industry indicate that these fuels offer the best opportunity for continued growth in the near future. 

EPA’s proposal would hold the biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 stagnant at 2.1 billion gallons and decrease the advanced biofuel volume for 2018 to 4.24 billion gallons. These proposed volumes do not reflect the existing potential for the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries in our states and could cause near-term job losses and discourage investment in capacity and new fuel development. It is estimated that every 500 million gallons of increased biodiesel production supports roughly 16,000 jobs. 

Further, EPA’s NODA solicits comments on whether it could further reduce the total, advanced, and biomass-based diesel volumes through several different waiver mechanisms. However, there is ample available feedstock, refining capacity, and room for growth in the domestic biodiesel industry. The industry is poised for growth, in accordance with the intent of the law, if EPA sends the market signals with increased volumes. Reducing volumes and especially those RVOs that were previously finalized is disruptive, unprecedented, and very troubling. 

We have made great progress through the RFS in diversifying our nation’s fuel supply while creating and sustaining jobs, strengthening local economies, generating tax revenues, and improving energy security. We urge you to support higher RVOs for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels in the final rule to encourage additional development and use of this fuel.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)                                                                      

Roy Blunt (R-MO) 

Patty Murray (D-WA)                                                                        

Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)      

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)                                                                      

Joni K. Ernst (R-IA) 

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)                                                              

Deb Fischer (R-NE)                                            

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)                                                                     

John Hoeven (R-ND) 

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)                                                                    

Jerry Moran (R-KS)                                                                                                    

Susan M. Collins (R-ME)       

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)                                                                            

Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)                                                                  

John Thune (R-SD) 

Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)                                                                    

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 

Al Franken (D-MN)                                                                              

Martin Heinrich (D-NM)                        

Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)                                                                     

Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME)

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)                                                                     

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT)                                                          

Gary C. Peters (D-MI) 

Jack Reed (D-RI)                                                                                 

Bernard Sanders (I-VT)         

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)                                                                    

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)       

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)                                                                

Ron Wyden (D-OR)                  

Source: Sen. Chuck Grassley

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