By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday extended the deadline for the third time for refiners to show compliance with 2013 federal biofuel use targets, a move quickly criticized by the oil industry.
Annual compliance reports would be due 30 days after the pending publication of the final rule establishing the 2014 renewable fuel percentage standards, the agency said on its website.
Thursday's move was the third extension of the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance deadline, which was originally to have been Feb. 28 and was first pushed to June and then to September.
The EPA said the extension was necessary because refiners need to know their 2014 obligations before they can determine how many biofuel credits they may need to carry over from 2013 in order to comply with this year's requirements.
Final 2014 targets are expected to be sent to the White House within weeks, at which point the long-delayed rule will enter its final review before public release.
But consideration of the proposal at the White House's Office of Management and Budget could also take several weeks.
"We're concerned this delay means EPA will further delay the final RFS requirements for this year," said Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. "The administration's inability to meet deadlines is a clear example of how the program is unworkable."
Carroll noted that the law governing the renewable fuel program requires EPA to finalize its volume requirements for 2015 by Nov. 30 "but we're still waiting for them to finalize requirements for this year."
The RFS requires increasing amounts of biofuels such as corn-based ethanol and soy biodiesel to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply each year through 2022, peaking at 36 billion gallons.
The agency caused an uproar in the renewable fuel industry last fall by lowering the proposed 2014 targets.
Many biofuel industry sources expect the EPA to slightly raise the proposed levels in the final rule but still leave them below the original mandate.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Sandra Maler)