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Minnesota officials respond to Biden’s decision on renewable volume obligations

(The Center Square) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday after months of delays that it has proposed setting total renewable fuel volume requirements for 2022 to 20.77 billion gallons, the highest in history.

It has also proposed retroactively revising 2020 standards for total renewable fuel to be 17.13 billion gallons to account for challenges the program and market faced that year, including from the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 total volume requirements proposal is 18.52 billion gallons.

The EPA is asking for a 250-million-gallon “supplemental obligation” to volumes proposed in 2022 and plans to add that for 2023 as well.

The EPA said in the announcement it proposes denying pending applications for small refinery exemptions (SRE) but asking for public comment. It said the petitioners failed to prove the EPA has the authority to approve them in light of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit’s decision in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA.

Biofuel producers who suffered losses during the COVID-19 pandemic will receive up to $700 million through the CARES Act’s Biofuel Producer Program, the USDA announced Tuesday. The USDA also said up to $100 million may be available soon for grants for infrastructure, such as blender pumps for bioethanol blends of E-15 or greater or biodiesel blends B-20 and greater.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association released a statement Tuesday praising the decision about RVOs for 2022 and criticizing the decision to decrease 2020 RVOs. It urged the Biden administration to reconsider the proposal.

“The proposed cuts will hamper the Biden administration’s own climate goals and advance the interests of the oil industry at the expense of farmers and rural communities,” it said. “This decision also flies in the face of the commitment President Biden made as a presidential candidate to uphold the RFS. … Any proposal to cut RVOs will only serve to protect market share for petroleum refiners and Big Oil allies and reduce access to this cleaner-burning fuel.”

The association said the USDA grants will help biofuel producers and increase the availability of higher ethanol blends, the proposed RVO cuts would still cost them.

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, said Wednesday that the 2022 number is positive for the biofuels industry and that the SRE have provided relief to oil companies and hurt family farmers.

“These decisions will help lower prices at the pump for hardworking Americans and accelerate the positive impact that biofuels can and must play in our effort to decarbonize the transportation sector, tackle climate change, and drive economic growth across rural America,” she said in a statement with U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., and Ron Kind, D-Wisc.

They said the proposal to retroactively lower the 2020 RVO target is an insufficient commitment to renewable fuels and family farmers.

“As we have emphasized in repeated conversations with the Administration, now is the time to invest in renewable biofuels and the communities they support – not to prioritize the interests of fossil fuel companies that continue to ignore the law of the RFS,” they said.

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