The Iowa Biodiesel board has laid out its case to the Environmental Protection Agency to reject a proposed change in direction of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, asking the agency to not only reverse course on proposed cuts from the agency’s July proposal, but increase biodiesel substantially. The IBB submitted official written comments on EPA’s Notice of Data Availability (“NODA”) supplementing its July 21 proposed rule regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2018 and “biomass-based diesel” volume for 2019.

An excerpt of the comments is as follows:

“On behalf of the biodiesel industry, the thousands of workers whose livelihoods depend on this manufacturing sector, and the farmers who have been able to hold on to their family farms during recent hard times in agriculture, we’re asking EPA to reverse course on the unprecedented move to weaken biodiesel in the RFS. IBB urges EPA instead to increase the advanced biofuel volume for 2018 in the final rule to at least 4.75 billion gallons, and increase the biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 to at least 2.5 billion gallons. Lastly, we ask EPA to keep the already finalized biomass-based diesel volumes for 2018 at the level committed to our industry. Cutting the biomass-based diesel volume set a year ago is not only without merit, it’s highly disruptive and unfair to producers and farmers alike.

“Iowa is the nation’s top biodiesel-producing state. Our producers made 305 million gallons in 2016. We have 13 biodiesel plants in Iowa with a capacity of about 400 million gallons per year, so clearly that capacity remains underutilized by about 100 mgpy. Still, based on the promise of a brighter future, in the last couple of years, the Iowa biodiesel industry has increased its capacity by more than 20 percent….Our members say there are more such projects ready and waiting to go forward that would create even more jobs…Unfortunately, expansion plans are currently on hold until more certainty in the marketplace is received through year-over-year growth of the RFS volume targets.

“Nationwide, the biodiesel industry supports more than 64,000 jobs. In Iowa, biodiesel supports 3,800 Iowa jobs, and it also supplies $300 million of Iowa household income and contributes over $480 million to the Iowa GDP, according to a study by ABF Economics. Slashing biodiesel volumes could cost thousands of Iowans their livelihoods, as plants are forced to scale back or shut down altogether. This would compound in the larger agriculture economy—impacting 2.1 million U.S. farms and the related industries and associated jobs. Slashing biodiesel would harm the farm economy and rural America at a time when both are already struggling.

“EPA’s apparent desire to undercut the RFS is perplexing on many levels. For one thing, Administrator Pruitt has spoken frequently about wanting to make sure that EPA wouldn’t overreach like in past administrations—and that the EPA would respect the letter of the law. We’re asking that be applied to the EPA’s dealings with the RFS. None of the legal authorities cited in EPA’s NODA allow EPA to further reduce volumes. EPA may not use its general waiver authority, because there is neither an inadequate domestic supply of advanced biofuels nor a severe economic harm. EPA cannot use its biomass-based diesel waiver authority because there are no emergency circumstances causing a ‘severe feedstock shortage or other market disruption.’ On the contrary, the U.S. is sitting on surplus supplies of agriculture feedstock available for use. If anything, the statutory factors within the law make it such that an increase is warranted—NOT a decrease.

“Growing demand for biofuels is the very heart of the RFS, the reason it exists. Rather than pushing the industry to grow and thrive, the EPA seems to be on a path to push the industry out the door. We believe this is wrong. President Trump promised to support and grow the RFS several times on the campaign trail and after he became president, which is well documented. We’re asking EPA to help the president uphold his word. We urge the EPA not to buckle in the interests of oil companies and refiners, but rather, stay true to the intent of the RFS. This is about American jobs, American energy and national security, and certainly the American heartland. We believe the agency should be more aggressive in meeting Congress’s goals to move this country toward advanced biofuels, maintain what has been promised to our producers for 2018, and increase volumes of biomass-based diesel for 2019 and beyond.”