Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Environmental Protection Agency is no longer considering a controversial provision that would have made exported ethanol and biodiesel eligible for the credits used to measure compliance with the federal blending mandate.
The Iowa Republican makes the inference based on recent dialogue with EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, leading him to conclude the policy is no longer being considered as a potential compromise that would allow for year-round sale of E15.
“Only one thing you can say for certain, that the idea that (former EPA Administrator Scott) Pruitt had and refineries were pushing to have RINs applied to exports, that’s not on the table,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday morning.
The idea of making exported biofuels eligible for Renewable Identification Numbers – the credits used to track Renewable Fuel Standard compliance – has seen a good deal of movement in the last 12 months. Pruitt sent a letter to Capitol Hill in October assuring lawmakers that at the time, EPA had “not taken any formal action to propose this idea, nor will EPA pursue regulations.”
But the idea reemerged earlier this year, leading President Donald Trump to reject a deal that would have traded the export RIN for the Reid Vapor Pressure waiver necessary for year-round E15 sales.
The export RIN being taken out of consideration would be a win for ethanol interests, but the desire to secure the RVP waiver remains. Grassley said he believes Wheeler is acting on a directive from the White House to find a deal.
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“There seems to be a real message from the White House to Wheeler to do something for E15 12 months out of the year, but there has to be something also done for refineries,” he said. “So I think Wheeler is trying to find some balance.”
Wheeler addressed the issue shortly after being named EPA’s acting administrator, telling reporters that any changes to the RFS would need to move as a package. Those comments seemingly eliminated the possibility the agency could pursue the RVP waiver as a standalone action, something Grassley – and a host of pro-biofuel lawmakers and lobbyists – still hopes could happen.
“I can’t say for sure he’s of this frame of mind, but I sure hope he … that we’ve already accomplished what the refineries want, and he would just go ahead with just something for ethanol,” Grassley said, noting the drop in RIN prices since biofuel talks at the administration level began.
Under a provision in the Clean Air Act, E15 - a gasoline mix with 15 percent ethanol - cannot be sold during the summer months, a restriction that begins in June. Grassley said he drew the conclusion from his conversations with Wheeler that he wants to “get it done a long time before next season,” and “there may be some time limit that he has set for himself, and he didn’t say what it was, but if he doesn’t find some sort of compromise, that he’s going to have to move ahead anyway.”
In a statement to Agri-Pulse, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud did not address specific questions about the export RIN, but he noted the agency is working with the White House as well as the Energy and Agriculture departments “to develop a win-win solution for the president that provides regulatory relief for the agriculture community and RIN stability for our nation’s refiners.”
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