Ethanol Industry Set To Fight EPA On Blend Rule

Iowa Farm Scene

What's behind EPA's move to cut the amount of biofuel blended into our nation's gasoline supply?

Published on: February 7, 2014

Branstad has led the Midwest-based criticism against EPA's proposal to trim the required use of corn-based ethanol to 13 billion gallons in 2014, down from 14.4 billion gallons set by the RFS. After EPA refused to hold a Midwest hearing on the proposed changes in the RFS, he organized a day-long hearing in Des Moines attracting ag leaders from several states to testify. Over 80 people testified and Branstad sent their comments to EPA.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says EPA can't legally reduce RFS mandate
EPA's proposal, first announced in November, would reduce the overall requirement for all renewable fuels, including corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, to 15.2 billion gallons, from the 18.1 billion gallons set by law in the RFS. Supporters of biofuels say if the proposal is enacted it would eliminate thousands of jobs in Iowa and other Midwest states, drive down farm income, harm air quality and force consumers to pay more for fuel at the pump. EPA's proposal, biofuel advocates say, is an example of politicians and regulators making a wrong decision while reacting to pressure from the powerful petroleum industry.

At a news conference at the IRFA summit, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said the federal government doesn't have the authority to reduce how much ethanol and biodiesel should be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. Miller said based on his interpretation of the law, EPA doesn't have the authority to reduce the ethanol volume requirements for the reasons EPA has stated. EPA says it is cutting the requirements because there isn't enough ethanol. But that's not the case, said Miller.

"EPA says that phrase in the RFS statute is ambiguous, and they go on to interpret it to include challenges in distribution of the biofuel," Miller noted. "We're saying, no, it says 'inadequate domestic supply' and that's what the RFS is referring to—supply. But we have the supply. There is a huge amount of corn and there are ethanol plants in operation and more being built. There is no suggestion that farmers and the plants can't produce the ethanol required in the standard. Simply put, EPA doesn't have the authority to make these reductions."

Will Iowa officials take legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency if EPA scales back the renewable fuel mandate as proposed?
Miller said his office is taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to take action against EPA. "We hope they revise their rule. We think there is good reason to," he said.