EPA issues waiver to help fuel access in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin after refinery fire

Source: By Amie Simpson, Brownfield • Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2022

The EPA has issued an emergency waiver to help alleviate fuel shortages in four states in response to a fire and shutdown at BP Whiting Refinery in northwest, Indiana.

The agency has waived federal regulations for fuel sales in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin through September 15.

Helena Jette is the biofuels director with Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council.

“This is basically a waiver to allow different types of fuel blends to be offered in different areas in the states to have the least disruptions of the fuel supply to where that fuel is going whether it’s a convenience store, a commercial fleet company etc.,” she says. “(The waiver) is really trying to reduce that impact.”

Governors in the four states requested EPA waivers under the Clean Air Act. In a letter to the state officials, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency determined the waiver was necessary “to minimize or prevent disruption of an adequate supply of gasoline to consumers.”

Jette says farmers are ready to help meet the demand for higher blends of ethanol.

“Corn farmers are excited to continue supplying these very renewable fuels and perfect sustainability solutions that are available right now,” she says.

With almost 15 ethanol plants in Indiana, half of the state’s corn crop is converted into ethanol. And, the plants represent about seven percent of the country’s total ethanol production capacity.

BP Whiting Refinery, the sixth largest refinery in the U.S., produces 430,000 barrels-per-day. Damage from electrical fire led to a partial shutdown of the facility. BP has said it’s working toward a “phased restart” of the refinery.

The facility provides between 20 and 25 percent of the gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel used by the four states.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order suspending regulations to expedite the refining and transporting of fuel through Indiana.

Jette tells Brownfield ISA and ICMC are pleased Governor Holcomb signed an executive order suspending regulations.

“The refinery provided up to 25 percent refined fuel that’s used in Indiana before this fire temporarily shuttered that, and so we applaud Governor Holcomb for assisting and ensuring that the fuel supply shortage isn’t going to be as impactful to the state of Indiana,” he says. “Something that’s included in that as well is the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had issued a regional emergency declaration affective through September 10 for the four states that lifted restrictions on maximum number of operating hours on motor carriers and drivers who provided assistance and support for gasoline and diesel shortages related to the fire. Governor Holcomb followed suit from the federal level to the state of Indiana.”

In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer waived hours-of-service rules to help drivers transporting the fuel in Michigan.

Whitmer says, “the impacts of the outage at the Whiting facility will be widespread across our region, and I am taking proactive steps to help Michiganders get the fuel they need to drive their cars and help businesses keep their products moving… I am freeing up more gas supply and removing any impediments to gas delivery to cut down wait times at stations.”

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker says the coordinated effort with neighboring states will reduce the chance of disruptions and keep the people and businesses of Illinois moving. The state’s corn farmers will continue to provide needed fuel through ethanol production.

Marty Marr, president of the Illinois Corn Growers association says, “because locally grown and produced biofuels can displace a large percentage of petroleum fuel, motorists can feel confident that they are not only purchasing an available, safe, high-quality fuel, but also that they are saving money at the pump and cleaning the air when they drive.”

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers says he’s working to ensure continued access to an adequate supply of fuels by waiving regulations on hours-of-service rules. He says he’ll continue work with governors from across the Midwest to ensure that fuel keeps flowing at the terminal and the pump.