September 22, 2014

Attorney General says EPA action on ethanol not legal

Legions of people lately have pleaded in public hearings for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to maintain the amount of ethanol required to be blended into gasoline, but Iowa’s top lawyer says there’s another better tactic.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says based upon his interpretation of the law, the EPA simply lacks the authority to cut volume requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. “The EPA does not have the power under these circumstances to reduce the targets for renewable fuel,” Miller says. “The section they’re going under refers to inadequate domestic supply — can enough renewable fuel be produced — and pretty clearly, it can.”

Miller says the EPA is misinterpreting the Renewable Fuel Standard law, especially when it comes to that key phrase, “inadequate domestic supply.” “They say that phrase is ambiguous and they go on to interpret it to include challenges in distribution,” Miller says. “We’re saying, oh, no, it says ‘inadequate domestic supply’ and that’s what they mean, supply, and the supply is there, so you don’t have the authority to make the reductions.”

Tuesday was the deadline for comments on the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirement proposal for 2014. Miller says he hasn’t decided what action his office will take if the agency reviews all the comments and stays with the original proposal to cut the amount of required ethanol.

“We’re adopting sort of a wait-and-see approach,” Miller says. “We hope that they revise their rule. We think there’s good reason to. There’s been a lot of comments. We’ll wait and see what they do and depending on what they do, we’ll evaluate the situation then.”

Miller spoke this week at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit held in Altoona. Iowa is the nation’s number-one ethanol producer. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says Iowa has 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 3.8-billion gallons a year, with three cellulosic ethanol facilities under construction. Iowa also has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315-million gallons a year.

Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey also questioned the legality of the EPA’s action at a public hearing last week on the RFS.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)