The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency awarded three biofuel mandate waivers Tuesday evening before handing the keys over to the incoming Biden team.

The move frustrated many corners of the Renewable Fuel Standard debate; biofuel groups were upset the Small Refinery Exemptions were issued at all, petroleum groups were looking for a greater level of relief.

In total, the SREs — two for the 2019 compliance year and one for the 2018 year — exempted 260 million Renewable Identification Numbers. Sixty-five petitions remain pending for compliance years 2011-2020, according to an online SRE dashboard.

"EPA's last-minute gifts to oil refiners come at the direct expense of biodiesel and renewable diesel producers,” Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said in a statement. “This disappointing action further undermines the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard program by destroying demand for additional gallons of biofuel."

The EPA’s issuance of SREs had declined drastically following a 2020 court ruling that struck down three waivers but also created a new litmus test for future relief. The Supreme Court has recently announced it would hear an appeal of that case.

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Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper blasted the “midnight-hour” action and said it planned to challenge the waivers — which Cooper said are “without legal merit” — in court.

“In the past, Administrator (Andrew) Wheeler has asserted that the ‘appeals process needs to play out’ before EPA will decide the SRE petitions,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, hypocrisy has been the hallmark of the Trump administration’s EPA, which right to the end has demonstrated its fealty to the nation’s largest polluters, while showing nothing but disdain for America’s hard-working farmers and producers of homegrown renewable fuels.”

National Corn Growers Association President John Linder said the move "shouldn’t be a surprise to those who have been paying attention for the last four years."

"There is no reason for the EPA to take this action now, especially with the Supreme Court set to consider the Tenth Circuit ruling in the new term," he said. "Corn farmers need an EPA that will follow the law as written and intended by Congress."

The nation's biofuel policy will be under new leadership once President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated Wednesday, and Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement the group expects a change in the government's approach once that happens. 

"Given President-elect Biden’s commitments on the campaign trail, we‘re confident his incoming team will swiftly work to reverse the damage these oil handouts have done to rural America by this midnight maneuvering,” she said.  

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