Sensenbrenner asks why EPA failed to produce required RFS reports

By Erin Voegele | September 12, 2016

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., recently sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her why the agency has failed to produce reports on the environmental impacts of the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

On Aug. 18, the EPA Office of Inspector General published a report finding the EPA’s Office of Research and Development has not complied with a statutory requirements to provide a report to Congress every three years on the impact of biofuels. The Office of Inspector General also cited to several ways the EPA should improve its reporting and evaluation activities under the RFS 

“The EPA has a statutory requirement to produce these reports,” said Sensenbrenner. “It is vital that Members of Congress have access to the Agency’s findings while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of our national biofuels mandate in order to take sound actions on behalf of the American consumer.”

Within the letter, Sensenbrenner notes that statute requires the EPA to update Congress on the environmental and conservation impacts of the RFS every three years. However, he said the agency hasn’t completed a triannual congressional impact report since 2011 and never issued a backsliding study to determine if the RFS adversely affects air quality.

“Although EPA says some of the required reports were not produced due to scare resources and other priorities, the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) stated that in regards to lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the state of the science (since 2010) has not changed enough to necessitate an updated study on the impacts of the renewable fuels program,” Sensenbrenner wrote in the letter. “Additional and updated research and analysis allows lawmakers to better gauge the strengths and weaknesses of policy we enact, and science-based decision making is vital when evaluating our biofuel mandate.”

Within the letter, Sensenbrenner asks McCarthy to respond to three specific questions by. The first question asks how confident the EPA is that it can produce a triennial report to congress during the first quarter of 2018 and asks McCarthy to specifically identify what the agency is doing to ensure the deadline is met. The second questions asks McCarthy to address why or why not it would be beneficial for the EPA to complete an anti-backsliding air study on the RFS proposing new biofuel volume requirements in the future. In the third question, Sensenbrenner asks McCarthy to address whether a statement she made in late 2013 that “additional research that’s done credibly and transparent is always welcome” applies only to E15 or if it applies to the RFS in its entirety. He also asks her to clarify whether she supports the Office of Air and Radiation’s decision to forego an additional report on the lifecycle GHG emissions associated with the RFS. Within the letter, Sensenbrenner requests that McCarthy provide answers to his questions by Oct. 8.