EPA's Ethanol Mandate For 2014 Behind Schedule

Des Moines Register

Nearly six full months into 2014, the amount of ethanol that is supposed to be blended into the gasoline supply this year still has not been announced — and is not expected to be for several more weeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency is required by law to finalize the blending requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard for the following year by Nov. 30, a deadline an oil trade group said the agency hasn't met since 2011. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in May the agency was reviewing more than 200,000 comments on its November proposal for 2014 that would cut the mandate from the level set out in a 2007 law, and was expecting to issue the final rule in "late spring or early summer."

But the EPA has yet to send the proposed 2014 blending requirements to the Office of Management and Budget, the agency tasked with vetting proposed regulations. An EPA spokesperson said that submission should occur "soon."

In November, the EPA proposed reducing ethanol produced from corn in 2014 to 13.01 billion gallons from 14.4 billion gallons initially required by Congress in the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard, a law that requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other products to reduce the country's dependence on foreign energy.

McCarthy told farm broadcasters last month that the EPA believes Congress gave it the authority to make changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard in certain cases, such as the looming blend wall — a level where refiners must include more ethanol into the country's fuel mix than can be blended in at a 10 percent threshold accepted in all cars and trucks. "I get how important our proposal is — and the longevity of the RFS program itself," McCarthy said.

While those who follow the ethanol debate expect the EPA will increase the Renewable Fuel Standard blending level from the November estimate, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to please ethanol industry officials. They have warned a cut could slow growth, especially in the nascent cellulosic industry that uses crop residue, grasses or wood chips to produce ethanol.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, acknowledged that whatever the EPA announces is "going to be heavily scrutinized" and likely be fought in court by the oil or ethanol industry depending on the outcome.

"Once it goes to OMB you're still probably weeks away from a final announcement," Shaw said. "There's no use holding your breath right now because we're not even close."

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents 550 oil and natural gas companies, said the EPA's delay in finalizing the 2014 levels has increased uncertainty for those who must comply with the controversial requirement. In a letter to the EPA's McCarthy sent last week, Bob Greco, API's downstream director, said the delays in implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard "are unacceptable, fundamentally unfair" and show a disregard for a deadline put in place by Congress.

Earlier this month, the EPA extended the deadline for complying with the 2013 blending level requirements through Sept. 30. The agency said the extra time was necessary because of the delay in finalizing the 2014 figures. The change was widely seen by those who follow the Renewable Fuel Standard as further evidence that the EPA wasn't close to announcing figures for this year.

Read the original story here : EPA's Ethanol Mandate For 2014 Behind Schedule