Senators issue letter in support of strong RFS

By Erin Voegele | June 24, 2016

A group of 39 senators have issued a letter to the U.S. EPA advocating for a strong renewable fuel standard (RFS) that will support U.S. jobs and the economy, reduce the environmental impact of the transportation and energy sectors, and decrease dependence on foreign oil.

According to the senators, when Congress adopted the RFS “it intended to put in place a stable, forward-looking policy to drive innovation and investments in biorefining capacity and distribution infrastructure to bring biofuels to American consumers.” 

In the letter, the senators note that the stability of the RFS policy has led to hundreds of millions being invested in the U.S. biofuels sector, with production capacity expanding more than threefold since 2005. The industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduces the environmental impact the transportation and energy sectors, and reduces reliance on foreign oil. However, the senators stress that the EPA’s consideration of distribution infrastructure when setting RFS obligations—which is contrary to the clearly defined waiver authority granted by Congress—has caused biofuel investment to fall and projects to move overseas.

“We cannot afford to cede our leadership position in the world,” said the senators in the letter. “A strong RFS, and more biofuels, make our country more secure.  It increases competition and choice, strengthening our economy.  We urge you to take the opportunity to get the program back on track by setting blending targets where Congress intended and by removing the distribution waiver.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Amy Klobuchar, D-M.N.; John Thune, R-SD; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Mark Kirk,R-Ill.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Joni Erns, R-Iowa; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D; John Hoeven ,R-N.D.; Joe Donnelly ,D-Ind.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Mike Rounds,R-S.D.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Pat Roberts,R-Kan.; Tammy Baldwin,D-Wis.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Jerry Moran,R-Kan.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Gary Peters ,D-Mich.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Jack Reed ,D-R.I.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, issued a statement thanking the lawmakers for their leadership to ensure EPA finalizes a strong RFS that gets the program back on track. “In proposing a lower conventional biofuel target for 2017, the EPA is catering to the oil industry by relying upon an illegal interpretation of its waiver authority and concern over a blend wall that the oil industry itself is creating,” he said. “The RFA has demonstrated just how easy it would be for obligated parties to reach the 15 billion gallon statutory volume for conventional biofuels next year—through rising gasoline demand, increased E15 and E85 and 2 billion surplus renewable identification numbers available to refiners. Meantime, continued uncertainty has caused investments in new technology and advanced biofuel to languish or move overseas. It’s time EPA follows the statutory requirement and increase the conventional biofuel target to 15 billion gallons.”

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, has also spoken out in support of the senators’ letter.  “The letter is unequivocal in outlining the need to keep our progress in biofuels production intact and in urging EPA to issue a final rule putting the RFS program back on track with blending targets that match Congress’ intended levels,” she said. “We must not turn back the clock on the progress we have made, and commend these Senators for protecting America’s security and economy through the RFS. The EPA must return stability to this policy to ensure that we keep America moving forward. The RFS decreases our dependence on foreign oil, improves our environment by reducing harmful emissions and displacing toxic chemicals found in gasoline, and gives American consumers a choice of a less expensive, higher performing fuel. RFS is our nation’s most successful energy policy. We stand united with this group of bipartisan Senators in sending a message to EPA that our support for this policy is unwavering, and that EPA must set the final RVO volumes to 15 billion gallons as Congress intended.”

The full letter can be downloaded from the Growth Energy website.