Senators Push EPA to Walk Back Changes to Renewable-Fuel Standard

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 02: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) leads a news conference to highlight the impact of the federal government partial shutdown on government workers in the National Capital Region and across the country in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of 'non-essential' federal employees across the country were furloughed after House Repulicans and Senate Democrats couldn't settle on a budget and the government shut down for the first time in 17 years.  (Chip Somodevilla AFP/Getty)

A bipartisan group of senators wants the administration to back down from proposed changes to the renewable-fuel standard, a mandate requiring target amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply each year.

The letter, sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and six other senators, takes issue with the agency's draft proposal for the 2014 mandate and its suggested cutback to the advanced-biofuels portion of the mandate.

The proposal would provide for 2.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuels to be blended into gasoline — a cutback of 1.5 billion gallons compared with the target amount spelled out in the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007.

The senators say that while they understand that EPA has jurisdiction to review and revise the standard, rolling back the mandate for advanced biofuels is unnecessary.

"Domestic producers are making real, on-the-ground progress in expanding production to achieve broader commercialization of advanced biofuels," the senators write.

The letter goes on to warn that if EPA moves to lower the advanced-biofuels target, it could halt investment in the industry. It calls the agency's proposal "the wrong approach."

"If the final rule were to include the proposed level of 2.2 billion gallons for advanced biofuels ... the 2014 RVO [renewable volume obligations] will nearly be halved, thus taking away any practical incentive for future investment in advanced biofuels."

The letter comes just days after the agency ended the public comment period on the draft proposal, which was released in November.