Senators urge Regan to uphold the RFS

By Erin Voegele | April 21, 2021

A dozen senators on April 20 sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan requesting that he continue his commitment to support farmers and rural communities by upholding and restoring confidence in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Restoring the integrity of the RFS and expanding market opportunities for renewable fuels should remain a core part of our plans to assist in the economic recovery of rural America and further reduce emissions from the transportation sector,” the senators wrote. “It is for this reason that when considering the 2021 and 2022 renewable volume obligations (RVO), we also urge you to require conventional renewable fuel volumes of at least 15 billion gallons per year, as required by the statute, along with the court-ordered 500 million gallons illegally waived from the 2016 standards and increase biodiesel, advanced and cellulosic volumes.”

The senators stress that since its inception in 2007, the RFS has bolstered rural economies, diversified the fuel supply, strengthened national security, and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from the transportation sector. The letter also addresses the challenges the biofuels industry has faced as a result of the COVID-29 pandemic.

“Despite the damage done by the pandemic the RFS remains an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding economic opportunity in rural America,” the senators wrote. “In fact, a recent analysis found that the RFS has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 980 million metric tons since 2008; equivalent to removing 212 million passenger vehicles (roughly four out of five registered automobiles) from the road for an entire year. We request that the EPA update its own  modeling to help affirm these emissions reductions.”

The letter also discusses the EPA’s recent move to extend RFS compliance deadlines for 2019 and 2020 and the many small refinery exemptions (SREs) approved by the previous administration, both of which benefit small petroleum refiners. In addition, the senators also address the oil industry’s claim that high renewable identification number (RIN) prices threaten the viability of its refineries, stressing that the EPA has previously noted that “’…high RIN prices do not cause significant harm to refiners,’ because all obligated parties are generally able to recover the cost for compliance.”

“We disagree with the assertation that it is impossible for refiners to comply with the RFS in 2021,” the senators wrote. “Refiners have numerous options at their disposal to comply with the RFS, including by blending more renewable fuels (flex fuel, E15, or biomass-based diesel), purchasing RIN credits from obligated parties that are blending more biofuel than required, utilizing surplus RIN credits, or carrying over their compliance deficit into the next year. Even so, as EPA recently stated in its brief response brief in HollyFrontier v. RFA, ‘creating incentives for market participants to replace petroleum fuels with renewable fuels is a core purpose of the RFS.’”

The senators urge Regan to reject requests to waive or reduce the RVOs under the RFS and “continue his commitment to support farmers and rural communities by upholding and restoring confidence in the RFS.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Michael Rounds, R-S.D.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Roger Marshal, R-Kan.; Josh Hawley, M-Mo.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Growth Energy has issued a statement in support of the letter. “We’re grateful for Senators Klobuchar’s and Fischer’s leadership in underscoring to EPA that restoring integrity to the RFS will assist in the economic recovery of rural America and help the Administration reach its climate goals,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “EPA should not give in to oil refiners’ claims that renewable volume obligations should be reduced because of COVID-driven demand reductions when EPA itself just recently told the Supreme Court that ‘…creating incentives for market participants to replace petroleum fuels with renewable fuels is a core purpose of the RFS.’

“We are continuing to work with Administrator Regan, the Biden Administration, and our biofuels champions in Congress to ensure the RFS is followed as Congress intended.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Growth Energy website