The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing the week of March 14 examining the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Under the RFS, EPA sets an annual benchmark representing the amount of renewable fuels that each fuel refiner and importer ("obligated parties") is responsible for generating.
At the hearing, several members of the Committee asked EPA to consider moving the point of obligation from refiners and importers to blenders of motor fuel with biofuels. NATSO and other associations representing fuel retailers have actively opposed this shift. Refiners and importers are obligated parties because it is the only way to ensure that renewable fuels are integrated into the nation's fuel supply, NATSO has argued. If blenders rather than refiners and importers were obligated parties, the RFS's objectives would not be achieved.
When asked about what the volume requirements will be in future years, the EPA official testifying did not speculate beyond saying that the agency "foresee[s] steady growth in [biofuels] as competition increases and as more facilities come online to produce these advanced fuels." With respect to the final rule to set 2014-2016 volume requirements (along with 2017 biomass-based diesel requirements), EPA noted that EPA exercised its waiver authority to reduce the statutory requirements "only to the extent we thought was necessary."
Also addressed at the hearing was the future of the RFS after 2022, when the statutory volume requirements end. Unless the law is changed, beginning in 2023 EPA will establish annual volume requirements on its own. EPA noted at the hearing that Congress gave the agency a long list of factors to consider in establishing those mandatory volumes, including environmental impacts, impacts on energy security, and costs to consumers. "Figuring out what the world is going to look like in 2022 is pretty challenging . . . [EPA] has no [current] plans on what the standards would look like post 2022."
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