The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a new website adding more transparency on how the Renewable Fuel Standard is functioning, but biofuel groups say the gesture, while appreciated, doesn’t go far enough.
The new website provides additional data about the prices and trading of Renewable Identification Numbers as well as updates on the amount and status of Small Refiner Exemption (SRE) requests.
For many of the categories, this is the first time the EPA has made this information available. For instance, the EPA did not divulge information about SRE requests, and much of the information known to the public about the waivers is due to media reports earlier this year. But the website does not reveal any information on the companies that have sought or received a waiver, something the agency claims would be in violation of confidential business information requirements.
EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has been vocal about his desire to increase transparency surrounding the RFS from the beginning of his tenure, and said Thursday that the added clarity this information provides “will improve implementation of the RFS and provide stakeholders and the regulated community the certainty and clarity they need to make important business and compliance decisions.”
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue offered similar thoughts, saying the ag community will appreciate being more informed about the nuances of the RFS.
“We hear concerns about lack of transparency around the issuance of small refinery waivers and we are hopeful these changes will put everyone on a level playing field to receive the information at the same time,” Perdue said. “Farmers stay on top of every bit of news that comes out about the RFS and their industry, so providing them with more information is a priority.
Energy lobbyist Scott Segal said the additional disclosure is welcomed, but encouraged the EPA to do more to regulate RINs trading.
"Transparency alone doesn't address the substantial problems of speculation and manipulation in the RINs market," Segal said through a spokesman. "EPA must address the role of the speculator directly, but using position limits of the very sort that are commonplace in the agricultural commodities markets."
Biofuel groups signaled their appreciation for the additional public information, but said more could be done to add even more transparency to the program.
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“Today’s action may prevent small refiners from obtaining market-moving information before other participants in the marketplace,” Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement. “That’s important because it appears the RIN market was gamed earlier this year by a small group of refiners who were privy to sensitive information regarding compliance exemptions before the rest of the market knew what was going on.”
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor agreed, calling the new dashboard “a positive step in the right direction.” But Dinneen and Skor both noted the need for additional SRE information beyond the new figures disclosed Thursday by the EPA.
“Who has received these waivers? What is the criteria for the waiver? Are the lost gallons from the waivers going to be reallocated as the law requires? In order to gain back the confidence of American businesses, EPA must provide more answers,” Skor said.
Kurt Kovarik, the vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, added that the additional transparency, while welcome, “comes very late and doesn’t solve the problems EPA has recently created.”
According to the new website, the EPA has received 11 SRE applications for the 2018 compliance year. That comes after the agency granted 29 waivers for 2017, with another five still pending (34 total petitions were received). Another 19 SREs were granted for 2016, with one application still pending. The new website shows the EPA has not denied a SRE petition since the 2015 compliance year.
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