RFA presses EPA to release final 2012 RFS volumes

By Kris Bevill | December 22, 2011

The U.S. EPA’s Nov. 30 deadline to finalize biofuels volume requirements for the 2012 renewable fuel standard (RFS) came and went with no announcement from the agency or any indication of when it might release the final numbers. With less than two weeks remaining before the start of the new year, the Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, imploring her to release the numbers or at least provide a timeline for the final rule’s unveiling.

“With the holidays fast approaching and a new compliance year upon us, we are asking that EPA release its final volume RFS requirements for 2012 as soon as possible,” RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in the Dec. 20 letter. “At the very least, EPA should immediately explain the reasoning for the delay, provide guidance to renewable fuel producers and obligated parties, and disclose when release of the final rule might be expected. Quite frankly, this nearly three-week delay in the publication of 2012 RFS requirements is both inexplicable and unacceptable.”

The EPA did not immediately respond to the RFA’s request, according to RFA chief of staff Matt Hartwig. In response to a request for information from Ethanol Producer Magazine, EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said, “The rule is still under the interagency review process led by OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and we will issue it as soon as that review is complete.” Milbourn declined to comment on the reason for the delay in the finalization process.

The EPA proposed the 2012 RFS requirements as scheduled in June. As expected, the agency proposed to drastically reduce next year’s cellulosic biofuel requirements, suggesting the new volume be somewhere in the range between 3.45 million gallons and 12.9 million gallons as opposed to the 500 million gallons set in the original legislation. Ethanol producers offered input on the proposal throughout the summer, generally agreeing with the proposed reduction range but offering some additional suggestions, including a modification that would allow corn ethanol to qualify as an advanced biofuel. Petroleum representatives suggested more stringent reductions to the cellulosic biofuel requirements, championing a plan that would base the coming year’s cellulosic volume requirements on proven production in the previous year. In October, the U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Administration submitted its 2012 cellulosic biofuel production estimates to the EPA as scheduled, suggesting that only about 6.9 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel will be made available in the transportation fuel market next year. The EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to use the EIA’s estimates as a basis for the final RFS volumes.

No major disruptions are expected in the fuel market if the EPA fails to finalize the 2012 volume requirements before Jan. 1. However, in his letter to Jackson, Dinneen said the RFA provides critical market certainty for stakeholders who produce renewable fuel and blenders who must comply with the regulations. “This market certainty is put in jeopardy as long as questions remain about impending RFS requirements and when those requirements will be made final,” he said.