Final EPA Rule Increases RFS Blending Levels, but Door Open for Future Revisions

EPA Also Denies Unjustified Refinery Exemptions

Contact: Cassidy Walter

JOHNSTON, IOWA – Today EPA released the long-awaited final rule to set Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending levels for 2021 and 2022. The solid 2022 blending level is in line with Congressional intent and the 2021 number was increased from the earlier proposal. However, in an unprecedented move, the EPA also reopened and reduced the 2020 RFS rule that was finalized in December of 2019.

“IRFA appreciates the Biden EPA getting the RFS back on track in 2022 and increasing the 2021 blending target compared to the proposal,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “But we also cannot ignore that today’s final rule creates uncertainty. Any of these numbers that look good today could be revised downward in the future. But we’re going to plan for the best, and today, this rule means greater use of lower-cost biofuels to help save consumers money at the pump.”

Refinery Exemptions are Denied

While long expected, formal action was also taken to deny 72 unjustified RFS refinery exemptions, many dating back to the Trump Administration.

“The Biden EPA is to be commended for restoring sanity to the refinery exemption program,” said Shaw. “These exemptions have never been justified and were simply being used to illegally undermine the RFS. We are grateful this long nightmare is over.”

2016 Remand Gallons

In a separate rule also released today, EPA addresses the D.C. Circuit Court 500 million gallon “remand.” The Court found the Obama EPA illegally reduced the 2016 conventional blend level by 500 million gallons and “remanded” the case back to EPA to restore those gallons. EPA plans to add half of those remanded gallons to the 2022 RFS level and says it will do the other half in 2023.

“For five years IRFA has been calling on EPA to address this remand and we give the Biden EPA credit for taking action, especially after four years of intransigence on this issue from the Trump EPA,” Shaw said.

Biomass-based Diesel and Advanced Biofuels

The final rule also increases the biomass-based diesel category and advanced biofuel category to a total of 5.05 billion gallons in 2021 and 5.63 billion gallons for 2022.

“We are encouraged to see EPA recognizes the growth occurring in the biodiesel and renewable diesel markets,” Shaw said. “The RFS must keep up with the increased production capacity that is coming online. After all, Congress intended the RFS to be market moving, not just reactive.”

2020, 2021 Ethanol Blend Levels Reduced

While the 2022 conventional biofuels blend level corresponds with the statutory 15 billion gallons, the rule sets the 2021 conventional level – traditionally filled by cornstarch-based ethanol – at 13.79 billion gallons, 1.2 billion gallons below the level set by Congress. The rule also reopens the finalized 2020 RFS rule to lower the conventional blend level by 2.5 billion gallons, setting it at 12.5 billion gallons.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association represents the state’s liquid renewable fuels industry and works to foster its growth. Iowa is the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production with 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing 4.5 billion gallons annually – including 34 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity – and 11 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce 410 million gallons annually. For more information, visit the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association website at: