Grassley floor speech criticizes EPA proposal to reduce RFS RVOs

By Erin Voegele | September 27, 2017

On Sept. 26, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, delivered a floor speech to the U.S. Senate expressing his disappointment in recent action taken by the U.S. EPA that could reduce 2018 and 2019 renewable volume requirements (RVOs) for biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. EPA published a notice of data availability (NODA) concerning potential reductions in RVOs for 2018 and 2019. The potential reductions primarily concern RVOs for biomass-based diesel, but would potentially result in corresponding reductions in the RVOs for advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel.

Grassley opened his floor speech by noting he is “very disturbed” about the action taken by the EPA, stressing that the agency’s action is contrary to what the president promised. He said he thinks people working for the president aren’t following the president’s direction.

Grassley said he has championed policies to encourage the growth of renewable electricity and biofuels. “I pursued policies to grow our country’s production of renewable fuels such as conventional corn ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol,” he said, noting renewables are good for the environment, the economy, national security, the balance of trade and energy independence.

Grassley said he was pleased during the most recent presidential election when then candidate Trump made clear his support for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard. “He said clearly, ‘We are going to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard,’” Grassley noted.

Grassley also quoted Trump as remarking at an ethanol biorefinery, “Amazing what you’ve been able to do—amazing. And it’s great for the country and the investment is great. Beyond even the product, the investment and the jobs and everything else is great for the country.”

In addition, Grassley quoted remarks made by trump in January 2016 at a renewable fuels summit in Iowa. “The RFS, which is Renewable Fuel Standard, is an important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence to the United States. I will do all that is in my power as president to achieve that that goal…As president I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to charge and change any part of the RFS….Energy independence is a requirement of America to become great again. My theme is ‘Make America Great Again.’ It’s an important part of it. The EPA should ensure that biofuel RVOs, or blend levels, match the statutory level set by Congress under the RFS.”

Grassley said Trump's words were very strong and went over well with farmers and alternative energy. After years of delay and uncertainty, Grassley said Iowans were grateful to hear such determination and conviction.

According to Grassley, he was somewhat cautious early on when the president named members of his cabinet with individuals from oil-producing states. Grassley said he met with nominees for the U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Energy, and others. One by one they assured us of their support, because they were made well-aware of President Trump’s support. They knew who the boss was, Grassley said, and they knew he supported the RFS.

“About a month ago the president even called me to say he still supports renewable fuels and that he will keep his word on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Grassley said, noting Trump said he was free to tell Iowans of his ongoing support.

“So, you can imagine my surprise today when I see that the EPA has released a proposal, out of the blue, to reduce the volume requirements for biodiesel for 2018 and 2019 under the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Grassley said. “This action today has come out of nowhere.”

He said the EPA released a proposal in July to set blend levels for biodiesel. That proposal did not touch the 2018 level, which was already finalized at 2.1 billion gallons. The proposal would keep the 2019 level steady at 2.1 billion gallons.

“Today’s announcement proposes to reduce both levels,” Grassley said. “It’s outrageous that the EPA would change course and propose a reduction in renewable volumes in this way. This seems like a bait-and-switch from EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from President Trump himself and Cabinet secretaries in my office. Reducing volumes as the EPA proposes would undermine renewable fuel production. That’s contrary to the worthwhile goal of America first. It’ll undermine U.S. workers, and harm the U.S. economy, particularly in rural areas. It’s contrary to the goal of meeting the country’s fuel needs through domestic production, which is critical to economic growth. This all gives me a strong suspicion that Big Oil and oil refineries are prevailing, despite assurances to the contrary.”

“I plan to press the administration to drop this terrible plan,” Grassley continued. “I hope the officials working for the president will keep his word, so I’ll make sure the EPA hears loud and clear the impact the EPA’s proposal will have on Iowa’s corn and soybean farmers, and biofuel producers.”