According to the EPA dashboard, a total of 52 new requests for waivers have been submitted by oil refineries. If the waivers are granted, it will pile on top of the billions of gallons of fuel already waived and would come at the expense of an already struggling sector hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
The renewable fuel standard or RFS requires oil refineries to meet an annual renewable volume obligation. In practice, the RFS means oil refiners blend in renewable fuels into their gasoline or diesel fuel. They also have the option of purchasing biofuel credits to remain in compliance with the RFS. A temporary exemption can be granted if the refinery can demonstrate a disproportionate economic hardship.
After the department of energy reviews the applications it’s then up to the EPA to grant them or not. This issue is a contentious one, as many feel the administration has been too liberal with the EPA’s distinction of the exemptions.
A unanimous decision issued in January of this year by the 10th circuit Court of appeals invalidated small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted by the EPA to three refineries for 2016 and 2017. The ruling validated the widely held view inside the biofuels industry that the dramatic increases over the last several years of SREs were in violation of the law, and the EPA had been abusing their authority and granting those exemptions.
“This absurd maneuver is a blatant attempt to dodge the law at the expense of rural communities,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “EPA’s dashboard confirms that the refiners hope to rewrite years of history, just to bypass the 10th Circuit Court and push more biofuels out of the marketplace. It’s an insult to American farmers, biofuel workers, and to rural families struggling to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19 after years of regulatory abuse.
The issue is critical to Iowa. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, in 2015, Biofuels accounted for about 3.5% of Iowa’s GDP – that’s roughly $4.6 billion. Additionally, they note that the industry supports more than 43,000 jobs in Iowa.
Senator Grassley echoed concerns raised by Iowa farm leaders. He was quoted in the New York Times last week saying, “If the EPA ends up accepting these petitions, not only will they lose again in court, they will risk President Trump’s support in Iowa and other Midwestern states.”
“EPA should reject this attempt to game the system. The last thing farm states need is another long legal battle fueling uncertainty in the agricultural supply chain. We agree wholeheartedly with Senator Grassley, who called on regulators to ‘publicly dismiss these ridiculous petitions as soon as possible,” said Skor.