Throughout 2019, and mainly since the agency’s December proposal, there has been increasing concern over Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) and how Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has generously distributed them to big oil companies. Iowa lawmakers note that they destroy billions of gallons of biofuel demand – a massive deal in Iowa and other midwestern states.

Critics argue that this practice is also against the law. A few weeks ago, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down three of those small refinery exceptions, ruling the EPA has been abusing their authority in granting the exemptions.

President Trump has expressed his support for ethanol and biodiesel repeatedly, but frustration has mounted with the EPA’s handling of the exemptions at the behest of oil refineries. Wheeler has been under fire from Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, and others, for his agency’s mishandling of the exemptions. Earlier this week, news reports cited unnamed sources indicated that the administration might finally consider putting a lid on the controversial handouts.

Yesterday, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was in D.C., where he and other top farm officials had an opportunity to hear directly from Administrator Wheeler on this issue. Naig continues to press for a fix to the unjustified exemptions alongside Governor Reynolds, Senator Ernst, and Senator Grassley, who hasn’t been shy about reminding President Trump why the EPA’s decision could make or break the GOP ticket among hard-pressed farmers.

Earlier today, retiring Iowa Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-2) attempted to get a straight answer on the issue during an interesting back and forth with EPA Administer Andrew Wheeler at an important House budget hearing.  Video below:

Under questioning, Wheeler declined to offer any promises, noting, “We’ve not made any final determinations, but I will say President Trump is fully committed to the RFS program.” He added that the agency will respond to the court decision “hopefully very shortly.” He also declined to reveal the names of refiners that have benefited from the special exemptions.

It remains unclear how this will ultimately play out, but many in agriculture are hoping the EPA will accept the 10th circuit’s decision and apply it nationwide.