WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with her colleagues Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), joined a bipartisan group of 34 other senators urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase volume obligations for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuel, and ensure any small refinery exemptions are accounted for in its final rule setting renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The EPA’s June 2018 proposal would raise the biomass-based diesel volume for 2020 to 2.43 billion gallons and increase the advanced biofuel volume for 2019 to 4.88 billion gallons.

“While these proposed increases are encouraging, these volumes continue to underestimate the existing potential of the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries in our states,” the senators wrote. “We believe the biodiesel industry can do more and that EPA should demonstrate more confidence in the RFS program’s ability to drive growth. Increasing biomass-based diesel and advance biofuel volumes would encourage investment in capacity and new fuel development. Further, EPA must accurately account for small refiner economic hardship exemptions in the final rule. … It is critical that EPA appropriately account for any small refiner economic hardship exemptions that it reasonably expects to grant during the 2019 compliance year in the final rule, or EPA will not be able to fulfill its duty to ensure RVOs are met.”

As the senators noted in their letter, every 500 million gallon increase in biodiesel production supports an estimated 16,000 jobs.  

The senators continued, “We have made great progress through the RFS in diversifying our nation’s fuel supply while creating and sustaining jobs, strengthening local economies, generating tax revenues, and improving energy security. We urge you to continue to increase annual RVOs for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels and to ensure that, once set, the annual RVOs are fully met.”

In addition to Ernst, Grassley, Murray, Blunt and Heitkamp, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OHO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (R-MO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The full text of the letter can be viewed here.