Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Monday he is denying so-called “gap waivers” for past compliance years from the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” Wheeler noted.
The agency was considering a total of 98 pending waiver requests from the RFS, 68 of which were retroactive for compliance years 2011 through 2018. Small refineries producing less than 75,000 barrels per day may apply for a waiver if they're concerned complying with the RFS would cause them undue economic harm; EPA considers recommendations from the Department of Energy before acting.
“Based on the DOE’s recommendations, I am denying those gap-filing petitions where DOE recommended no relief. In these instances, EPA agrees with DOE’s evaluation and recommendation that these small refineries did not demonstrate disproportionate hardship from compliance,” Wheeler wrote in a notice to filers. He said EPA is also denying exemptions for all gap filing petitions where DOE recommended 50% relief.
The waivers had become a hot button political issue in recent years after previously being a little-known facet of the law that created the RFS. Earlier this year, a court decision ruled SREs needed to be issued continuously, causing many facilities to seek waivers for previous compliance years to maintain a consistent chain that would allow for continued receiving of the relief.
The announcement confirms what Sen. Joni Ernst R-Iowa told Agri-Pulse last week saying she felt confident EPA would deny the waivers.
“I’ve been calling for these ‘gap year’ waivers to be thrown out since they were announced. Now, the administration has listened to our calls for action," Ernst said Monday.
Biofuel supporters were also quick to praise EPA.
"Today’s action lifts a cloud of uncertainty that has been hanging over America’s farmers and biofuel producers since June,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said. Skor said GE looks forward to continuing to work with the White House and leaders in Congress to ensure integrity to nation’s biofuel targets is restored.
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American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President & CEO Chet Thompson said Trump has betrayed refinery workers by not granting the waivers.
“The notion that this Administration is ‘following the rule of law’ through its latest betrayal of U.S. refinery workers is laughable. We hope the President and Administrator Wheeler feel a sense of responsibility when RFS compliance costs become even more untenable for refineries of all sizes,” Thompson said.
Thompson further stated EPA needs to answer how it plans "to correct the 2020 RFS volumes artificially inflated because of small refinery exemptions that will no longer be granted." He also said the agency needs to explain how it will protect consumers and U.S. energy security by ensuring 2021 standards are achievable.
EPA's announcement comes after another win for the biofuels industry over the weekend.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted, pending state approval, retailers will be allowed to use conventional gasoline pumps to dispense E15 gasoline, fuel that contains 15% ethanol.
Trump has been getting pushback from farm country and biofuel producers to deny the retroactive waivers. Last month, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Trump had “sold out” American farmers by not rejecting the waiver requests.
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