Biofuels firms push back against EPA decision

Biofuels producers and their political allies are ramping up public and behind-the-scenes pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to rethink its plan to scale back the national biofuels blending mandate.

Here’s a couple of early signs of what’s expected to be a vigorous campaign:

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), whose state is a major ethanol producer, unveiled a new website Tuesday called “Protect The RFS,” a reference to the federal Renewable Fuels Standard that the EPA is seeking to scale-back for the first time.

“Washington, D.C. bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the stranglehold of big oil, have issued a ruling hoping to slash the amount of renewable fuel in America’s energy portfolio,” states the website, which solicits comments to send to the EPA.

Meanwhile biodiesel producers, under the banner of the National Biodiesel Board, on Tuesday met with Capitol Hill lawmakers or staff from almost 30 states, according to a spokesman for the industry group.

They’re asking the lawmakers to weigh in with the administration about how the decision would affect businesses in their state, board spokesman Ben Evans said.

The EPA proposal would set a target of 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel in the nation’s fuel mix next year, well below the industry’s current production pace. The group said the decision would cause plant closures.

Representatives of the biodiesel group also met with the EPA’s top air quality official Monday to make their case.

The Branstad and biodiesel group efforts are just a piece of what’s likely to be a heavy lobbying blitz from various segments of the biofuels industry as the EPA moves toward a final rule in the spring.