EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that the agency would not act on waiver requests for compliance years since 2019 until ongoing court challenges to prior decisions are settled.
As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. Under the now vanquished administrator Greg Pruitt's direction, the EPA handed out 54 exemptions over two years and not a single request for an exemption was denied.
On Sept 18 we reported Trump had suggested he'd provide $300 million to oil refiners and that those funds would come out of the USDA Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) which is intended to provide farmers with Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments. Trump later denied suggesting cash payments to refineries whose waiver applications had been rejected. (Source: EPA, Various Media, 19 Nov., 2020)
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"We have extraordinary circumstances this year and we are looking at what relief we can provide everyone -- the ethanol industry is hurting as well." -- U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 20 May, 2020
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"We have extraordinary circumstances this year and we are looking at what relief we can provide everyone -- the ethanol industry is hurting as well." --
U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 20 May, 2020
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"EPA's consideration of small refinery exemption petitions going back to 2011 flies in the face of the recent 10th Circuit decision. By rolling back the clock, there appears to be no length EPA won't go to help refiners undermine the RFS. Make no mistake -- this handout to the oil industry comes at the expense of biodiesel producers and soybean farmers across the country, and particularly the Midwest. Allowing these gap filings renders the program completely unpredictable for renewable fuel producers. The agency must immediately reject these petitions to restore confidence that it will abide by the law in administering the RFS." NBB VP for Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik said.
NBB sent a June 1 letter to Administrator Wheeler saying, "EPA's first step upon receiving any petition for a small refinery exemption should be to evaluate its timeliness and validity before transmitting it to the Department of Energy." The letter makes the case that "gap" petitions or re-submissions of previously rejected petitions are inconsistent with the 10th Circuit's ruling. (Source: National Biodiesel Board, PR, NBB Website, 18 June, 2020) Contact: NBB, Kurt Kovarik, VP of Federal Affairs, (800) 841-5849, www.nbd.org
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"We are writing to request further information about petitions reportedly received by the U.S. EPA from small refiners seeking exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for past compliance years.
"The petitions in question were discussed during your testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 20, 2020. On the same day, U.S. DOE Under Secretary Mark Menezes confirmed that EPA is 'send[ing] over' past-year petitions for DOE review. Mr. Menezes described the petitions as 'gap filings' intended to reconstitute after-the-fact a continuous string of exemptions for select oil companies 'to be consistent with the Tenth Circuit decision.'
"This attempt to circumvent the courts and the RFS should be rejected out of hand. Even if EPA granted retroactive 'gap' exemptions without simultaneously returning the number of RINs associated with the exemption to the petitioner, such exemptions would be inconsistent with EPA's own policies and regulations, legal precedent, and Congressional intent.
"These 'gap filings' appear to be little more than the latest in a string of oil industry tactics designed to subvert the law and sidestep a court order to uphold the RFS.
Read the full letter HERE. (Source: Renewable Fuels Assoc., 9 June, 2020) Contact: RFA, www.fuelsamerica.org
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"I'm disappointed the EPA chose to ignore the concerns voiced by renewable fuels producers, farmers and consumers. The flawed formula used to account for waived gallons creates unnecessary uncertainty in our markets, detrimental to so many across rural America. We must continue to work together to hold the EPA accountable for ensuring the 15 billion gallons mandated by the RFS are met. We must also continue to invest in infrastructure that builds demand and increases the availability of higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol across the state of Iowa."-- Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure program, which offers cost-share grants to help fuel retailers install infrastructure to increase the availability of ethanol and biodiesel. To date, the program has distributed or obligated over $33 million with $200 million added in private economic activity. (Source: Iowa Department of Agriculture, High Plains Journal, 29 Dec. 2019) Contact: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Mike Naig, Sec., 515-281-5321, www.iowaagriculture.gov
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"We request that you cease issuing any further small refinery exemptions, immediately reallocate the remaining gallons, and make public the information regarding any recipients of these exemptions
"We are extremely concerned about the EPA's recent actions to continue to improperly grant small refinery hardship waivers under the RFS. EPA's continued manipulation and misuse of the small refiner waiver authority is undermining the integrity of the RFS and disadvantaging farmers. Rather than follow congressional intent in the RFS and follow through on the promises made to rural America, the EPA and the (Trump) Administration are providing waivers, in secret, to help some of the largest oil companies and refiners evade their compliance obligations under the Clean Air Act.
The letter's signatories included Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Farm Journal, Various Media, AgPro, 11 June, 2019)
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"Since EPA began granting these additional exemptions behind closed doors, we have seen devastating market impacts and dropping prices for renewable identification numbers (RINs). We need to stop the bleeding and prevent EPA from ABFA's lawsuit against EPA challenges its methodology for granting these exemptions, arguing the agency more than doubled the number of exempted refineries by illegally changing its petition review process behind closed doors," said ABFA Pres. Michael McAdams.
"Administrator Wheeler has indicated his intention to move forward on decisions for as many as 39 additional exemptions this year. ABFA cannot stand by while EPA unilaterally and illegally undermines the integrity of the RFS program. These new exemptions provide a financial windfall to refineries at the expense of biofuel producers and distributors. EPA is punishing the parties who have worked to increase the amount of renewable fuel blended into the U.S. transportation fuel supply as Congress intended by enacting the RFS first in 2005 and expanding it in 2007.
"For the first time since the inception of the RFS, we are seeing reductions in U.S. renewable fuel blending, and EPA's actions are to blame. Until the court is able to rule on the merits of ABFA's pending lawsuit, the agency should be prevented from taking further action."
"Hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Advanced Biofuels Association, 30 April, 2019)Contact: Advanced Biofuels Association, www.advancedbiofuelsassociation.com
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According to Wheeler, "RIN prices have been relatively low and relatively calm since last spring. So that tells me that there should be less economic harm in the refining industry now than there was a year ago."
As previously noted, "hardship waivers" were intended for refineries producing 75,000 bpd or less and suffered "disproportionate economic hardship" from the costs of RFS compliance. The waiver frees the refineries from an obligation to provide the EPA with biofuels credits proving compliance. In 2017, the number of small refineries filing for exemptions retroactively for 2016 jumped from 14 the previous year to 20. The rate in which EPA granted these petitions also increased dramatically from 53 pct to 95 pct. (Source: Neb. Rural Radio, Reuters, Others, 14 April, 2019)
Contact: EPA,Administrator Andrew Wheeler, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-acting-administrator
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"These new findings provide further evidence that biofuels from America's heartland reduce greenhouse gases even more than we thought, and that our farmers and ethanol plants continue to become more efficient and effective," said Secretary Sonny Perdue. "Expanding the sale of E15 year-round will provide consumers with more choices when they fill up at the pump, including environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions. I appreciate EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler moving expeditiously to finalize the E-15 rule before the start of summer driving season," Perdue added.
The study, led by Dr. Jan Lewandrowski of USDA's Office of the Chief Economist, and published in the journal Biofuels, supports findings of other research that ethanol has a significantly better GHG profile than previously estimated.
The study attributes much of these additional benefits to revised estimates of the impacts of land-use change as a result of demand for ethanol. Where previous estimates anticipated farmers bringing additional land into production as a result of increased corn prices, recent analysis finds only modest increases in crop acreage. Additional improvements at ethanol refineries, combined with on-farm conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions, such as reduced tillage and cover crops, have further decreased emissions associated with corn ethanol. The study projects that with added improvements in refineries and on farms, a reduction of over 70 pct in lifecycle emissions is possible by 2022.
The study is available for download HERE. Additional information on the greenhouse gas profile of biofuels is available at www.usda.gov/oce/oeep. (Source: USDA, 2 April, 2019) Contact: USDA, www.usda.gov
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