EPA rejects states’ requests for relief from biofuel mandate

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected requests from seven states seeking relief from the biofuel-blending mandates required under the Renewable Fuels Standard, arguing that the states did not meet the requirements set by Congress for waiving the mandate.

“The body of information shows that it is very likely that the RFS volume requirements will have no impact on ethanol production volumes in the relevant time frame, and therefore will have no impact on corn, food or fuel prices,” the EPA wrote in its decision to deny the waivers.

The Associated Press reports that Governors of Arkansas, North Carolina, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Utah and Wyoming asked for waivers and were joined by members of Congress and a coalition representing farm groups and other industries that oppose increased ethanol production.

In order to get a waiver, the states had to show that the RFS itself caused severe economic harm and was more than just a “contributing” factor to the harm. Also, the states had to show that waiving the RFS would remedy the hardships of livestock producers. However, the agency did not find evidence of severe “economic harm” which would allow a waiver to be granted.

“We recognize that this year’s drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in a statement. “But our extensive analysis makes clear that Congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the RFS will have little, if any, impact.”

However, in August, Arkansas Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe said in a letter to the EPA that ethanol production was taking a “terrible toll” on animal agriculture in Arkansas and would force consumers to pay more for food.

“The governors’ request, and the Environmental Production Agency’s rejection of an ethanol mandate waiver, serves to underscore the pervasive problems with the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS),” said Charles T. Drevna, President of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers in a statement. “Failing to eliminate this mandate will adversely impact consumers and our economy.”

The RFS requires gasoline and diesel refiners to blend in renewable fuels, primarily ethanol, with petroleum-based fuels and mandates that 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol be produced in 2013 — requiring 4.5 billion bushels of corn which is good for ethanol producers.

“Despite millions of dollars spent by Big Oil and Big Food to shamelessly attack American-made ethanol, it comes as no surprise EPA denied the requests to waive the RFS because the facts are on our side,” said Brian Jennings, vice president at American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President.

Most biofuel produced in the United States for commercial use is ethanol made from corn. Currently, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes toward ethanol manufacturing which, according to some, is pushing food prices higher.

“The Obama EPA shows little concern for the hardships being faced by American consumers, and the denial of the governors’ request signals four more years of regulatory burdens, bureaucratic indifference, and politicized rule-making from this administration,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance. “As long as government mandates trump the free market, Americans will continue to suffer.”

“We have the capability of being energy self-reliant, but only if excessive and ineffective mandates are repealed,” said Drevna. “At stake are jobs, economic growth and a stable national security.”

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