EPA call for comments raises questions over biofuel standards delay

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2015 5:35 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) request on Tuesday for comments from cellulosic biofuels makers raised speculation among industry analysts of further delays in the release of government-mandated renewable fuels volumes.

The agency, which oversees the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, has asked for public comments before submitting a request to Office of Management and Budget regarding volume projections on cellulosic fuel production, according to a notice published on Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The deadline for comments is May 26, the notice said.

That could "indicate some sort of delay" to RFS announcement, said Tim Cheung, a research analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, LLC in Washington. "We think this might postpone the self-imposed deadline." 

The agency has said it will announce rules for blending for 2014, 2015, and 2016 this spring. It is late in releasing mandates for biofuels volumes that the U.S. industry is required to blend into transportation fuels for 2014 and 2015.

The information request is for a new qualification process designed to be more "streamlined" for corn starch and grain sorghum ethanol producers, said an EPA spokeswoman. She said it would not affect the overall RFS rule-making on blending mandates "in terms of timing, numbers or policy."

On March 19, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute sued the EPA, saying it has "ignored" its duty to issue requirements for blending ethanol and biodiesel into U.S. fuel supplies by the deadline set under federal law.

The groups said the delays have hurt their members financially because they have been unable to plan or adjust their output to comply with the annual targets.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Grant McCool)