DOE still reviewing gap-year small oil refiner petitions

Source: By Mark Dorenkamp, Brownfield • Posted: Monday, July 20, 2020

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette shed some new light on the Trump Administration’s handling of small oil refinery ‘gap-year’ renewable fuel waiver requests—a key issue for ethanol and gasoline producers ahead of the November election.

Brouillette signaled to the House Energy subcommittee, the 52 ‘gap-year’ retroactive small oil refiner waiver petitions for requests rejected by EPA in earlier years, are still under DOE review, despite biofuel allies’ calls to reject them, outright.

Brouillette says the Energy Department must review the requests that EPA submits, but made this concession to Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack on following a federal court ruling against most of the waivers.

“We’ll do everything according to the law and our understanding of the law, there’s no question about that. I will get with, Bill Cooper’s our general counsel at the Department of Energy, and we will ensure, whatever analysis we are required to conduct under the law, whatever we send to EPA, is going to be fully-compliant with, not only the 10th Circuit decision, but also, the federal statute.”

Brouillette argued there were differing legal opinions on the ruling’s impact on ‘gap-year’ waivers, but conceded DOE’s method for analyzing and recommending EPA reject the same waivers in earlier years hasn’t changed.

Which gave Loebsack an opening.

“Well, if it’s not change the methodology, then, doesn’t it stand to reason that DOE would have no choice but to score these ‘do-over’ gap year petitions, exactly the same way the Department did the first time?” asked Loebsack.

Yes, Sir, we’ve not changed our methodology,” said Brouillette. “We have done this in the same manner in which we’ve done, since the creation of the program, back in 2005.”

Brouillette couldn’t give the status of the current review, or when DOE might submit its recommendations to EPA, nor could he say if DOE has competed review of 27 petitions for the 2019 compliance year.

Ethanol industry leaders predict the administration will likely hold off on any politically sensitive waiver decisions until after the November election.