Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at Growth Energy, as Prepared


I want to jump right in and see what areas we have in common as we move forward. When it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, you’re not just stakeholders—you’re investors. For many of you, this is your life—and I realize that.

Anytime I think my job is tough, I think about Bill Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the EPA, and what he had to contend with when he first started that job.

When the Clean Air Act passed in 1970, smog was choking American cities, and the public was fed up. The brand-new Environmental Protection Agency was tasked with creating science-based air quality standards—and bringing the entire country into compliance with them—by 1975. Talk about building the plane while flying it.

The biggest lesson for me is that while that timeline might have proven to be wildly unrealistic, the Clean Air Act is still seen as one of the greatest public health and environmental wins in the world. The law has helped cut air pollution 70 percent since 1970, while our nation’s economy has tripled.

Today, we have some real challenges, and I want to talk about two of those: not just those related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, but those related to climate change—one of the greatest environmental and economic challenges of our time.

The RFS is a tool to address climate change. President Obama is fully committed to addressing the challenge of climate change, and he knows as well as you do that RFS is a tool we need to bring to the table.

So first off, let’s keep in mind…the biofuel industry is a great American success story. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of biofuels, and we’ve used more renewable fuel than all other countries combined. So EPA’s proposal has to continue to build on that success and to spur ambitious yet achievable growth.

EPA is working hard to make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard program is working toward the levels Congress intended. I want you to know I understand that is my job.

We need to be focused on how we grow capacity for advanced biofuels—and we know that will only happen through continuous investment over the long term. We have a successful foundation to build from that we need to pursue together.

EPA got more than 650,000 public comments on the proposal we released earlier this year, and we held a public hearing on the RFS in Kansas City in June. And if you’re familiar with our work on climate change, you know we really take public comments to heart and we make adjustments based on them.

Our team is working through all the comments as we speak to get a final rule done by November 30th—and we will meet that deadline.

My priorities are getting this rule done on time, increasing the amount of biofuels we produce each year, and sending a long-term investment signal that will deliver the next generation of biofuels. Be assured that our goal is the Congressional targets, and we need to get the program back on track.

We’ve heard your major concerns with the proposal, and my team is looking at the various issues and options right now. We’re closely reviewing the information you submitted, and we’ll be considering updated information and data as we develop the final standards, as we do with any rule. We need to make sure the hard work we’ve already done, and the investments we’ve already made, pay off in the way they are supposed to pay off.

I understand different folks have different perspectives on our proposed numbers, but our goal is to grow the market for renewable fuels. Rather than focusing on where we disagree, we need to find common ground and focus on how to get to the levels set by Congress. We think the current proposal puts the program on a sustainable path forward.

I want to say a few words on the broader picture of climate change, because I think we have to think about the RFS as one of the Administration’s key tools in moving that issue forward.

The RFS a crucial part of a broad, Administration-wide strategy to act on climate change and propel us even faster toward a clean energy future. The Pope is visiting later this month, and he has said, and the President has also embraced, that climate change is a moral issue, and we have a moral obligation to act.

I’m here as part of this Administration’s commitment to recognize that the climate solutions we put on the table, including biofuels, can help us grow the economy in a way that’s sustainable, that grows jobs, and that will spur investments that make this country stronger. There’s no downside to the U.S. being the country that invents new technologies first. That grows the jobs of the future first. And that pushes for international climate action first.

As you know, last month, EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, our historic rule to limit carbon pollution from power plants—this nation’s biggest driver of climate change.

Climate action is smart for our economy, our way of life, and our health. Carbon pollution comes packaged with other dangerous smog- and soot-forming pollutants—so by limiting carbon pollution, we’ll also avoid thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and hospitalizations from poor air quality in 2030 alone. All in all, we’ll see up to $45 billion in net benefits every year.

Our final plan mirrors how electricity already moves around the grid. It sets fair, consistent standards across the country. And it gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to adopt strategies that work for them.

The Clean Power Plan works by setting uniform carbon pollution standards for similar types of power plants nationwide, and then sets individual state goals based on where each state currently gets its energy.

So our rule puts states in the driver’s seat—states customize a plan reach their carbon pollution goals in whatever way works best for them.

I’m sure you’ve heard that some state attorneys general have sued EPA. But when you take a look at what’s really happening, state environmental professionals are diving into this rule and saying, “you know what, this is doable.” And they’re getting to work—because climate action is good for their state economies, for their people’s health, and for their investments and infrastructure.

Thank you very much.