- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
EPA Administrator Steven L. Johnson announced Thursday that the agency will deny a request submitted by the State of Texas to reduce the nationwide renewable fuels standard (RFS). The state had sought a reprieve from the recently passed law in light of increased fuel prices and the heavy reliance on oil in the Texas economy. However, Johnson noted that the needs of the many, i.e. for the U.S. to be less dependent on foreign oil, outweighed the Lone Star State's current economic needs.
As a result, Johnson said, the required total volume of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, mandated by law to be blended into the fuel supply, will remain at 9 billion gallons in 2008 and 11.1 billion gallons in 2009.
“After reviewing the facts, it was clear this request did not meet the criteria in the law,” said Johnson. “The RFS remains an important tool in our ongoing efforts to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions and lessen our dependence on foreign oil, in aggressive yet practical ways.”
The decision went against speculation by environmental groups and other observers, who wondered if close ties to the Texas oil industry by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and many of the administration's closest political allies, would affect the decision. Last month, a number of senators in both parties asked in a letter to the EPA that RFS enforcement not be as severe as that laid out in the legislation, as record fuel and corn prices made the bill's lofty goals less attainable without causing major economic problems.
The law authorizes the EPA to waive the national RFS if the agency determines that the mandated biofuel volumes would cause “severe harm” to the economy or the environment. The agency recognized that high commodity prices are having economic impacts, but the agency said its analysis of Texas’ request found no compelling evidence that the RFS mandate is causing severe economic harm during the time period specified by Texas.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the RFS program – and included amendments to the Clean Air Act to set strict criteria for RFS-related waivers. RFS nationwide volume mandates were increased in the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law in December 2007.
Johnson said the EPA conducted detailed analysis, consulted closely with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, and carefully considered more than 15,000 public comments in response to the Texas request.
The EPA said it will publish in the Federal Register notice a detailed rationale that will also serve as a framework for any future waiver considerations.