FILE - A miscanthus planter is prepared to plant minscanthus on a 13-acre farm on Highway 1 as part of the University of Iowa's Biomass Field Planting Day. The University hopes to use biomass such as miscanthus to lessen the amount of coal used in it's power plant. (The Daily Iowan/ Tyler Finchum)

Iowa congressional delegation unhappy with EPA’s final rule on RFS

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Iowa congressional members say the EPA’s final rule on Renewable Fuel Standard volumes doesn’t take advantage of the industry’s potential for biofuel production.

By Molly Hunter

molly-hunter@uiowa.edu

The Iowa congressional delegation isn’t entirely happy with the EPA’s 2018 final fuel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard program, but they say it’ll have to do.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its 2018 renewable fuel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard program. The 2018 rule stalls the steady and significant growth the volume requirements have seen under the program in every year since 2014.

“The EPA’s announced renewable volume obligations fall short of the full potential of the U.S. biofuels industry,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a Nov. 29 release provided by his office.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, also said the U.S. is capable of producing more than the Nov. 30 final rule.

“I am disappointed that the volume requirement for biomass-based biodiesel is only 2.1 billion gallons when we can produce much more,” King said.

The Renewable Fuel Standard was intended by Congress to promote growth in the production of biofuels in the U.S., but Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said the final rule has the EPA turning its backs on farmers and rural communities that would have benefited from greater volume requirement increases.

“The EPA has sat on its laurels when it could have been more aggressive and helped promote further growth,” Loebsack said in a Nov. 30 press release provided by his office.

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A Renewable Fuel Standard proposal released by the EPA in July would have reversed, rather than stalled, the steady increase volumes have seen since 2014. As a result, the proposal drew criticism and disapproval from many in Congress, Iowa’s members included.

In October, King was one of several members of the Congressional Caucus on Biofuels to write EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting the EPA “formulate a more robust final rule,” with higher volume requirements than those that had been proposed.

As it is, the final rule represents only a slight increase in most volume requirements, with cellulosic biofuels taking a cut of 33 million gallons from its 2017 level.

In a Nov. 30 press release from his office, Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, said the EPA’s final rule is an improvement from its July proposal but still leaves something to be desired.

“I am disappointed the agency didn’t strengthen the biodiesel volume levels,” Young said in the release.

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Other members of the Iowa congressional delegation expressed similar sentiments; Grassley was among them, but in the Nov. 29 release, he said he was also not surprised.

“While I hoped for higher levels, they aren’t unexpected and are unfortunately in line with EPA’s original proposal,” Grassley said.

On Nov. 30, the EPA also released the 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard for biomass-based diesel, unchanged from the EPA’s July proposal and also the same as the finalized amount for 2018 at 2.1 billion gallons.

“I am disappointed that the 2019 biodiesel numbers were held flat at the bare minimum level that the administrator committed to,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in a Nov. 30 press release provided by her office. “Moving forward, I will continue pressing the EPA to further bolster the biodiesel and cellulosic requirements.”

Grassley, Ernst, King, Young, and Loebsack all ended their statements with an emphasis on their continued commitment to advocating for and defending the Renewable Fuel Standard and the U.S. biofuel industry.

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