Is U.S. EPA's timeline to finalize 2014 and 2015 renewable fuel standard volume requirements by Nov. 30 fast enough to ensure market stability among biofuels stakeholders? During today's OnPoint, Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, discusses the challenges facing the industry as it awaits EPA's decision and talks about why she believes the industry can meet increased volume requirements.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board. Anne, nice to have you back on the show.
Anne Steckel: Thanks much for having me, Monica.
Monica Trauzzi: Anne, EPA recently agreed to finalize its 2014 and 2015 RFS targets by November 30th of this year. This came as a response to a legal challenge by producers and refiners. Responding to that, Senator Heidi Heitkamp wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy saying that the timeline would cause serious harm to biodiesel producers. Is the timeline fast enough?
Anne Steckel: Well, we certainly wished the timeline would have occurred faster. It's been a very difficult year for our industry because EPA has not put the volumes out, but we are encouraged that we actually have some timeline requirements now, and we always appreciate Senator Heitkamp's advocacy. She's a great supporter of the industry, and she really knows how important it is for our industry to get back on track. And EPA really has the opportunity to get back on track with these timelines that they've put out, but what's really important right now is that they get the volume requirements right, that they continue to grow our industry in a meaningful and sustainable way.
Monica Trauzzi: So behind the scenes, what kind of conversations are you having with EPA? Are you urging them to perhaps put the targets out sooner and specifically what are you looking for in the targets?
Anne Steckel: Well, we continue to have discussions with EPA and other folks in the administration about our desire to continue to grow the program. We'd like to grow the program by a few hundred million gallons every year as well as continue to grow the Advanced Biofuel Program. Those conversations have been going very well, and we think EPA knows how important it is for us, and EPA and the administration has said that they support advanced biofuels, and biodiesel is the first commercially advanced biofuel and the largest advanced biofuel, so we think this is the opportunity for them to stand behind their words and to really support the biodiesel industry by increasing our volumes.
Monica Trauzzi: Does the timeline establish certainty for your producers and does it help the biodiesel producers for the time being?
Anne Steckel: Well, having a timeline is certainly important because we know something will come out soon. EPA has really expressed its desire to get back on track in terms of the timelines, which is very important for our industry because we are so far behind in terms of the timeliness. And those delays, again, have really hurt our producers. We've seen plants idle, we've seen bankruptcies happen, and EPA has the opportunity to get this back on track, and these timelines are encouraging.
Monica Trauzzi: Do you take the establishment of the timeline as a signal from the agency that they are going to move swiftly on addressing some of the broader issues with the RFS?
Anne Steckel: Well, we hope so. You know, we think from our perspective that the RFS is working well. It just needs to continue to be administered in the right way, and it can be administered through those higher volume requirements. EPA has said that they want to put 2014 volumes at production, so for our industry, that's 1.75 billion gallons, and so we were encouraged to hear them say that, and we think them coming out with numbers such as that and then for the following years, continuing to increase by a few hundred million gallons would really get our industry back on track.
Monica Trauzzi: And the industry can successfully meet those targets?
Anne Steckel: Absolutely, yes. We've seen a lot of our plants have really detrimentally been impacted by this, but if they have the volumes out there, they certainly conduce that we have the capacity and our industry certainly wants to do that.
Monica Trauzzi: With all this new attention and lobbying on the RFS, have the prospects for congressional intervention increased?
Anne Steckel: Well, there certainly remain folks in Congress that talk about the RFS, but I think that what we're doing right now is really focusing on the administration and the administering of the actual rule and the volumes, and rather than focusing on what's going on Capitol Hill, folks on Capitol Hill have a lot of things on their plate, I don't think RFS reform is at the top of most people's lists.
Monica Trauzzi: So what do you say to the Advanced Biofuels Association? They're pushing hard for some kind of legislative fix to the RFS.
Anne Steckel: Well, again, that's really not what we're focusing on. I know some folks have talked about that, but again, we're really focusing on the administration and their ability to get the program out and to get the numbers up because that's what our industry needs right now.
Monica Trauzzi: All right. We'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
Anne Steckel: Thanks for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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