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RFS hearing set for Iowa this Thursday

This Thursday, Midwesterners who tried to get EPA to hold a field hearing on its proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014 will hold one anyway without the agency's official sanction.

EPA turned down a bipartisan request from Iowa's congressional delegation, so Iowa's Governor, Terry Branstad, will convene a session shortly before testimony begins at 8:30 a.m. (Central) at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that he'll be there, and that it's not too late for farmers and others who support ethanol to send comments to the EPA before the January 28 deadline.

"We're still trying to marshall opposition to the EPA's proposed reduction of the renewable fuel standard (RFS)," Grassley told reporters in his weekly conference call Tuesday.

"The Obama administration should have convened this hearing in Iowa," Grassley said.

Grassley said that along with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois (the second-ranking Democrat after Majority Leader Harry Reid) he is organizing bipartisan opposition in the Senate to the RFS proposal, which would have the effect of rolling back the blending mandate for corn ethanol from 13.8 billion gallons last year to about 13 billion this year, along with freezing the mandate for biodiesel blending and severely limiting cellulosic ethanol development.

Grassley told that it's not too late to send comments to the EPA's website, and that other senators who have contacted EPA believe that its administrator, Gina McCarthy, may extend the comment period.

"They think maybe that our meeting before Christmas made some impact," Grassley said.

Grassley was among 16 senators from both parties who met with McCarthy on December 18, along with his fellow Iowan, Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) who mentioned the meeting again when he met with farmers in Spring Valley, Minnesota, on Saturday.

Grassley said that even if the EPA keeps the RFS the same as last year, "they wouldn't be breaking the law." Critics of EPA's proposal say that it allows oil companies to block use of ethanol beyond the current 10% "blend wall," something not anticipated in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act which created the RFS. But EPA alone may not be able to improve the proposed rule, he suggested.

"The White House is going to have to step in, the president, personally," Grassley said.

If that doesn't happen and the rule stays the same, "this is a big win for big oil," Grassley said.

(In the photo above, Grassley is seated between Harkin, who is gesturing, and Franken on the left. McCarthy is on the right.)

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