The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released details of a new plan to calculate small refiners' exemptions from annual biofuel usage mandates.
Biofuel groups were swift to criticize the proposal, saying it fell short of what the White House had agreed earlier this month to do.
The proposed supplemental rule would determine small refinery exemptions in 2020 based on a 3-year rolling average of relief recommended by the Department of Energy.
EPA said “the proposed adjustments would help ensure the industry blends the final volumes of renewable fuel” into the nation’s fuel supply.
The agency issues small refinery exemptions after consultation with the Energy Department, but EPA has in the past reportedly strayed from the DOE recommendations in determining the volumes to be waived.
The supplemental proposal comes after an agreement was reached by USDA, EPA, and the White House on Oct. 4. The plan does not change EPA's proposed biofuel volumes for 2020 and 2021.
During a press conference at the Global Ethanol Summit in Washington Tuesday, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky said ethanol blending should hit 15 billion gallons in 2020 if the SREs don't exceed the EPA calculation.
“The president is very insistent that 15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons,” Censky said. “EPA and USDA are fully on board with that.”
Censky said he was confident the 2020 biofuel mandates would be finalized by the end of the year.
The National Biodiesel Board immediately criticized the proposal. "The supplemental notice contains a never-before-discussed proposal to estimate small refinery exemptions, with no assurance that the estimate will come close to actual exemptions," the group said.
President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association Geoff Cooper said the proposal falls short of delivering on President Trump’s pledge to restore the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“If the Oct. 4 announcement from EPA was a big step forward, today’s supplemental proposal is a step backward,” Cooper said.
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the proposal betrays rural America.
“The proposal released today will do nothing to bring back the ethanol plants that have shut down or help the burden that many of our corn farmers currently face,” she said.
Kevin Ross, an Iowa corn farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association, said farmers appreciate the EPA’s intent to follow DoE recommendations but said the rule “fails to provide assurance” needed that EPA’s practices for granting waivers will change going forward.
Corn-state lawmakers on Capitol Hill returned to Washington from a two-week recess as the agency published the proposal. Some of the same lawmakers that cheered the Oct. 4 announcement and cautioned the administration against moving forward with the current proposal.
“President Trump brokered this deal and any attempt to undermine it from EPA would represent a betrayal of the president,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa said. “I expect EPA would not do that after all the work that’s gone into this issue.”
“The proposal fails to live up to the administration’s commitment to fully restore gallons, provide more long-term certainty in the waiver process and offer a clear path to implementation,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. said.
Groups representing oil and energy sectors didn’t stop from chastising the administration either.
“(Today’s rule) is based on a false premise that fair treatment of smaller refineries hurts ethanol demand,” the Fueling American Jobs Coalition wrote in a statement. “It will have the unintended consequence of diminishing energy security and industrial jobs from Pennsylvania to Texas.”
A public hearing on the supplemental rule is scheduled to take place Oct. 30, in Ypsilanti, Mich.
(Story updated at 6:20 p.m. EDT to include additional reaction.)
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