Associations Weigh in on Final EPA RFS Volumes for 2019

Green fuel pump nozzle with drop oil.

EPA granted refineries 2.25 billion gallons in RFS waivers over the past year but did nothing to account for those lost volumes, organizations say.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) has announced final Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for the 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

EPA set a total renewable fuel blending obligation of 19.92 billion gallons next year of which 4.92 billion gallons shall be advanced biofuel, including 418 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel, resulting in 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel such as corn ethanol.

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“On paper, EPA appears to be resisting refiner demands to reduce conventional biofuel blending in 2019 below the statutory 15-billion-gallon level,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings. “However, in reality, as long as EPA fails to reallocate the over 2 billion gallons worth of blending obligations waived for ‘Small Refineries,’ renewable fuel demand will remain flat causing farmers and rural biofuel producers to continue suffering the consequences.”

“While we are fighting this injustice with a challenge of three specific Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and a petition asking EPA to account for the lost volumes resulting from retroactive SREs, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler should be fixing this problem,” he added. “Economic hardship is real, but not for oil refiners. The truth is farmers and ethanol producers are struggling to make ends meet because of depressed prices caused by man-made limits or waivers on demand.”

“Assuming the President formally nominates Acting Administrator Wheeler to lead EPA, we call on U.S. Senators to insist he provides them with tangible evidence EPA will reallocate the blending obligations waived for Small Refiners before voting to confirm him,” Jennings concluded.

Lynn Chrisp, Nebraska farmer and president of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) also responded that it’s pleased EPA maintained the implied conventional ethanol volume of 15 billion gallons and increased the total 2019 renewable fuel volume as intended by the RFS. “However, EPA granted refineries 2.25 billion gallons in RFS waivers over the past year but did nothing to account for those lost volumes,” he said. “If EPA continues to grant large amounts of waivers in this manner, the volumes set in this final rule cannot be met. Ethanol has been and continues to be a strong market for U.S. corn farmers, especially during these tough times in the farm economy. When the EPA continues to grant waivers and does not account for those volumes in this rule, domestic demand for our crop is lost, impacting farmers’ livelihood and the economy of rural America.”

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy also weighed in. “We are pleased to see the 2019 RVO numbers released on time and that they hold strong promise, with a 15-billion-gallon commitment to starch ethanol and 418 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels. But the latest EPA rule is also a missed opportunity to correctly account for billions of gallons of ethanol lost to refinery exemptions. Until these are addressed properly, we’re still taking two steps back for every step forward. The current Acting EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has a valuable opportunity to chart a new course for biofuels and rural America. To reverse the damage done by his predecessor, the EPA must follow the law and reallocate lost gallons, ensuring the ethanol targets set by Congress are actually met.”