The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is denying petitions for small refinery exemptions for past compliance years, the so-called “gap-filling” petitions for the 2011-18 compliance years. This decision was seen as a win from most agriculture groups.
“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”
The National Corn Growers Association welcomed the EPA’s denial of 54 of 68 pending past-year (2011-2018) small refinery exemptions (SREs), or waivers, to oil refiners. However, 14 gap-year waivers remain under required review at the Department of Energy. The EPA also has 31 waivers under consideration for 2019 and 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard compliance years.
As promised, EPA is ensuring a net of 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel are blended into the nation’s fuel supply. EPA renewable fuel volume mandates have continued to rise in EPA’s annual rulemakings, and, with it, renewable transportation fuel use in the U.S. From 2016 to 2019 domestic ethanol production in increased by 2 percent. Additionally, as promised, EPA eliminated a significant barrier to E15 market access, and E15 is now used in 30 states at over 2,000 stations.
NCGA President Kevin Ross said, “Asking for waivers for nearly ten years ago was a new low by the oil industry to undermine the RFS and rewrite history. Denying these petitions was the obvious answer and farmers are pleased to begin to move past this distraction. We thank our bipartisan supporters in Congress, including Senator Ernst, for their advocacy in upholding the RFS.
“While denial of these past-year waivers is obviously positive news for farmers and biofuel producers, we’re never going to have the certainty we need until the underlying waiver issue is fully resolved.
“Nearly a year ago, the President directed the EPA to follow the letter of the law and keep the RFS whole and, in January, the Tenth Circuit ruled the EPA exceeded its authority in granting waivers. The Administration has yet to apply this decision to current waiver requests while corn farmers suffer suppressed markets and ethanol plants continue to have idled capacity.
“The solution is simple; the EPA needs to uphold the law, adhere to the Tenth Circuit decision, and follow through on the President’s commitment to farmers. Corn growers stand ready to work with the Administration to uphold the RFS and continue to remove barriers to higher ethanol blends.”
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “Rejecting the petitions is simply the right thing to do, and today’s decision marks a big step forward toward fully restoring integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard. This should serve as the final nail in the coffin of these gap-year petitions, and we are eager to put this dark and sordid chapter in the history of the RFS behind us once and for all.”