via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Administrator says additional time needed
to respond to public comments, explain decision
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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today said it will not meet
the July 24 deadline that was set for deciding whether to approve Texas
Republican Gov. Rick Perry's request for a waiver from the federal renewable
fuels standard (RFS), the law that requires 9 billion gallons of ethanol
to be blended into gasoline in 2008, 10.5 billion gallons in 2009, and
more in additional years.
"Rather, additional time is needed to allow staff to adequately
respond to the public comments and develop a decision document that
explains the technical, economic and legal rationale of our decision,"
said EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, who added he now expects a final
decision on the Texas waiver request in early August.
"The process remains fair and open and no agreements have
been made with any party in regard to the substance and timing
of the decision on the waiver request," Johnson said.
In late April of this year, Texas officially requested a waiver
from the RFS. Shortly after receiving the waiver request, EPA
initiated a public comment during which it received over 15,000 comments
and, Johnson said, "a number of these comments raised substantive
issues and included significant economic analysis. I believe it is very
important to take sufficient time to review and understand these comments
in order to make an informed decision. EPA is also required to consult
with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy in considering whether
to grant or deny the waiver request and has begun these consultations."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked the EPA to cut in half
a mandate that requires more ethanol be added to the fuel supply, with
requirements for 9 billion gallons this year alone.
Comments: Another "deadline"
missed for the reasons cited. Johnson did not say whether or not "early
August" will include the Aug. 12 release of the USDA Crop Production
Report and supply and demand estimates. I got wind of a possible delay
last week when an EPA press contact provided a muddied response as to
whether or not the agency would meet its statutory deadline. However,
an EPA contact said that additional time is needed to continue analyzing
the effects of spring flooding in the Midwest, and how it has affected
crops and food prices.
Of note, EPA is taking far more time to analyze a possible change
to the mandate than Congress or the Bush administration took in analyzing
the new mandate in the first place -- welcome to the U.S. way of governing.
Most of my contacts believe EPA will not approve the
Texas request -- barring any additional, major damage to the U.S. corn
crop -- and this is another indication that EPA may well want
to see the results of USDA's first survey-based estimate of the 2008
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or
retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.