Farm, ethanol leaders react bitterly to latest small refinery waivers
The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday announced that it approved requests for exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard’s requirements for ethanol use for 31 refineries while issuing six application denials, prompting bitter reactions from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the National Corn Growers Association and a range of biofuels leaders.
In a news release, EPA noted that under the RFS, “a small refinery may be granted a temporary exemption from its annual Renewable Volume Obligations if it can demonstrate that compliance with the RVOs would cause the refinery to suffer disproportionate economic hardship. EPA evaluates submissions to determine whether an exemption may be granted, based on information presented by the petitioning refinery and on the statutory and regulatory requirements for exemption.”
In an apparent attempt to address the anger of rural politicians and the industry, EPA also said it is “proud to announce its intention to further explore opportunities to remove regulatory burdens that prevent marketplace entrance and growth to natural gas, flexible fuel vehicles, and E85 fuels. EPA welcomes the opportunity to engage with stakeholders to explore deregulatory options in the coming months to ensure that it plays its part in supporting American farmers and consumers.”
EPA also noted the agency “has also been in regular communication with the National Corn Growers Association and their state affiliates on the agency’s intent to expedite the reregistration of atrazine, a critical crop protection tool for corn. EPA is committed to an expeditious and transparent process to ensure that America’s corn growers have the tools they need to grow safe, healthy, and abundant food for all Americans and a growing global population.”
The agency included a link to the atrazine letter in the release.
But that did not stop the criticism.
Peterson said, “The administration tried to bury bad news for rural America by quietly approving 31 more waivers this Friday afternoon that undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard and the market for corn.”
“On Wednesday, I hosted a packed forum at Farmfest with Secretary (Sonny) Perdue where farmers raised this issue again and again. Farmers are on the front lines of the tariff war and this announcement by the EPA will only make things worse.”
Peterson noted that he and Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and the co-chairs of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus introduced H.R. 3006, the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act of 2019, which would stop the EPA from granting waivers to oil refineries and undermining the market for ethanol.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., a member of the House Agriculture Committee and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said, “Let’s be clear — today’s announcement from the EPA is another blow to the pocketbook for farm communities across the Midwest.”
“Time and again, this administration has gone behind closed doors to rig the system for big oil and undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard. As a result of these waivers, we’ve lost billions of gallons of biofuel and rural America won’t stand for it. I’ll hold the president’s feet to the fire and continue to fight for our family farmers and biofuel producers.”