Double, Double, Toil, and Trouble: EPA Has Yet to Release RVOs

October 13, 2021

It’s the month of Halloween which brings things like too much candy and slasher films, but it’s the thing that is still missing that may be the spookier thing. We are half-way through October and still, EPA has yet to release the Renewable Volume Obligations currently stuck in a black abyss that has to be located at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The release of the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) has been a long-awaited event that seems to never happen. Rumors fly like witches on broomsticks, but nothing seems to materialize. First, they were absolutely going to be released on September 27, for sure. Then they were going to be released on October 1, so long as the government didn’t shut down. However, here we are, October 13, and still there are no RVOs. Spooky.

The renewable fuel industry has reacted as you might expect. RIN prices have been fluctuating, which comes as a shock to no one. The rumors about when RVOs will be released have been circling the air. Each time, the government ghosts their best laid plans to release the RVOs. #halloweenjokes. Every couple of weeks or so, it feels like the release of those RVOs is eminent but, to date, no such luck.

How did we get to this point? The answer is little bit complicated. First, as many of you are aware the fuels industry has felt the constraints of a global pandemic. Imagine, being the government agency that is required to promulgate rules on biofuels entering the transportation market during the year when staying home became more than an introvert’s best dream. On top of that, the United State Supreme Court ruled on the 10th Circuit case, which changed the way small refiner exemptions applications can be submitted, and the D.C. Circuit has been going back and forth on the rules for E15. If that’s not enough for you, EPA filed a motion to vacate without vacatur in a few small refiner exemption cases asking the Court to let them review the application to make sure that it complies with the ruling from SCOTUS’s overturn of the 10th Circuit case without vacating the original decision. If EPA releases these rules and they’re not what the industry is looking for, there’s going to be double, double, toil, and trouble… #Macbethsaiditfirst.

Second, the short and easiest answer as to why the RVOs are still not released is: politics. I know, I know, it’s everyone’s favorite scapegoat, but that doesn’t make it any less true. While EPA does not want the release of the RVOs to trouble the industry, the Biden Administration doesn’t want to make waves with this either. Now, does this mean that the RVOs being released are going to be absolutely fair for everyone? No, but then again, that’s not the point. The RVOs will inevitably make some sector of the market upset. The point isn’t to be fair to everyone, the point is to advance the goals the Clean Air Act. However, this still doesn’t mean that the government doesn’t try to be considerate to Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) stakeholders. Balancing the needs of the fuels industry and the requirements of the Clean Air Act is a tightrope of regulatory requirements, industry needs, and the considerations of the future of the RFS.

Would casting a spell or getting the entire OMB to drink a potion help at this point? I mean, I can’t condone the use of witchcraft to bring about a desired result…but also maybe. A lot of the fuels industry is just looking for these to be published at this point, which is perfectly understandable. The rumors surrounding the RVOs have been flying like ghosts and tricking people like goblins for months. It is understandable that participants of the RFS would want to know what the future may hold. One thing is for certain: something at some point is going to happen. Whether fire burn or cauldron bubble, EPA will release the RVOs. #Macbethstillsaiditfirst.