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EPA delays decision on renewable fuels waiver

Agriculture.com Staff 07/22/2008 @ 2:55pm

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced Tuesday that he's delaying a decision on Texas Governor Rick Perry's request to lower the renewable fuels standard.

"Given the amount of work that remains to sufficiently answer the Texas request for a waiver from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), it is now clear that a final decision on the request will not be completed by July 24," Johnson said in a statement. Instead, he said the EPA will decide in early August.

Perry has asked the EPA to cut the renewable fuels standard in half, citing its impact on the cost of food and the Texas cattle industry. The RFS requires the petroleum industry to use 9 billion gallons of ethanol this year and will ramp up to 15 billion gallons of grain-based ethanol. Already, the U.S. ethanol industry's capacity is at 9.3 billion gallons, so cutting the RFS is considered a serious threat to the industry.

According to press reports, Perry met privately with Johnson on July 9. That drew a letter of protest from a bipartisan group of eight U.S senators -- Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Thune and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Grassley seemed pleased with Johnson's decision. In a statement, he said, "I'm confident that if EPA takes a close look at the facts, they'll have to deny Governor Perry's waiver request. The fact that biofuels aren't driving up the cost of food and fuel will still be the same when the Administrator makes a decision in August. Until then, our farmers and ethanol producers are caught in limbo, taking the blame for a situation created far beyond the farm gates."

Johnson denied any favoritism in EPA's review of the waiver request.

"Shortly after receiving the waiver request, EPA initiated a public comment during which we received over 15,000 comments and a number of these comments raised substantive issues and included significant economic analysis," Johnson said Tuesday. "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.

"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."

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced Tuesday that he's delaying a decision on Texas Governor Rick Perry's request to lower the renewable fuels standard.

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