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EPA Chief Says Agency Aims to Set Biofuel Quotas by Dec. 20

Mario Parker and Jennifer A. Dlouhy

(Bloomberg) -- The EPA is seeking to issue a final rule setting 2020 biofuel blending quotas by Dec. 20, the agency’s chief told industry representatives in phone calls Thursday.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler gave the update to renewable fuel producers amid industry concerns the EPA’s existing proposal does not do enough to offset waivers exempting refineries from the mandates, according to three people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named describing private conversations.

The EPA is seeking to send its draft of the final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for an interagency review later Thursday, Wheeler said, according to four people familiar with the timing.

Agency officials have described similar ambitions to other biofuel and oil industry representatives, though release of the final rule could still slip to next year.

The calls follow a Bloomberg News report that White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow was working to hone the agency’s current proposal.

EPA officials have maintained that the agency’s plan is consistent with a White House-brokered agreement to adjust biofuel-blending requirements and fully offset refinery exemptions, though renewable fuel producers say the formal proposal falls short of the guarantee they need.

Under that proposal, the adjustments would be based on recent Energy Department recommendations for refinery waivers, not the higher amount the EPA has actually granted in recent years. However, the EPA also signaled it will closely follow those recommendations in the future.

The administration has struggled to find a balance on the issue, which divides some of President Donald Trump’s core constituencies: blue-collar oil refinery workers and corn farmers.

Biofuel allies have directly asked the president to insist on changes in the EPA proposal to better ensure exemptions are offset, even as politicians from states with significant oil refining interests push back against further efforts to assuage ethanol and biodiesel producers.

(Updates with details on timeline from third paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Mario Parker in Washington at mparker22@bloomberg.net;Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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