EPA may disclose refineries that get blending exemptions

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, April 15, 2019

EPA said Friday it’s considering publicly identifying which small refineries receive exemptions from ethanol-blending requirements and will take comment on the proposal for 15 days.

The agency’s announcement in a formal notice set off a new round of complaint and praise from ethanol and petroleum industry groups on an issue that sharply divides them.

EPA said the notice reopens a public comment period on aspects of a 2016 proposed regulation dealing with the types of information that can be revealed about refineries seeking relief from the renewable fuel standard.

In this case, the relief comes from economic hardship exemptions, which temporarily free refineries from biofuel blending requirements, including the purchase of renewable fuel credits to show compliance with the RFS.

EPA said it may make public the names of companies that seek and obtain exemptions, as well as the name and location of the facility, the nature of the relief requested, the time period at issue and the extent to which EPA granted or denied the request.

The Fueling American Jobs Coalition, which represents refiners and others opposed to the change, said revealing such information could put certain refineries at an economic disadvantage. Small refineries that don’t blend biofuel buy the renewable fuel credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, to show compliance.

“While appropriate transparency in the RIN market is essential, EPA’s most recent proposal will cause more harm than good. The data underlying Small Refinery Exemption requests reflects the underlying financial health of facilities in the highly competitive refining sector,” the group said in a statement.

Ethanol advocates welcomed the move. They’ve complained that EPA grants too many exemptions and that some of the refineries are owned by large companies that aren’t struggling — when companies have been identified in news reports or in public filings.

Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group, said that the proposal is a “first step” toward more transparency and that EPA should also reveal the methodology for granting exemptions.

The National Biodiesel Board, an industry group, said that it supports the proposal but that EPA should go further by making the information public when refineries request the exemption, rather than waiting until it’s granted.