The Trump administration will slash the number of biofuel usage exemptions for small refineries as the result of an appeals court ruling, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told farmers on Friday.
“You’ll see those waivers significantly reduced this year, which will help (ethanol) demand going forward,” Perdue said in San Antonio, Texas, at Commodity Classic, the annual gathering of producers of corn, soybean, wheat, and sorghum and equipment manufacturers.
Perdue didn’t say when an announcement would be coming from the Environmental Protection Agency. An EPA spokesperson told Agri-Pulse Friday morning that the decision was still under review. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Thursday that a decision would be coming within days.
"We were hoping to have an announcement even today about that," Perdue told reporters after the speech.
Perdue also called on the farmers to keep pressure on the administration. “In D.C. it’s never over until it’s over,” he said.
Last year, the EPA issued 31 waivers to small refineries, something Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper called at the time "unfathomable and utterly reprehensible."
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The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA had improperly granted exemptions to three refineries from requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Justice Department could appeal the ruling, but Perdue’s remark adds weight to reports that EPA would instead apply the ruling nationwide.
The appeals court said that EPA couldn’t legally extend exemptions to any small refineries whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed.
A Cheyenne, Wyo., refinery involved the case had a waiver in 2012 but did not apply for an extension in 2013 or 2014.
The facility then applied for an extension of the previous SRE for the 2015 compliance year, which the court assumes "for the purposes of this opinion" it received after a denial was remanded back to the agency following a separate SRE lawsuit.
Perdue told reporters that the 10th Circuit ruling means these "exemptions had to be ongoing. Extending an exemption doesn't mean starting a new one. It means extending. That's what the court case said. And so we think it's going to limit the number of small refinery waivers extensively."
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