EPA Delays RFS Mandate Waiver Decision Until 'Early August'

July 21, 2008 07:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Administrator says additional time needed to respond to public comments, explain decision

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The 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 corn crop.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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