Grassley fumes at EPA ignoring DOE on ethanol waivers

Source: BY Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019

EPA has allowed at least one small petroleum refinery to temporarily sidestep biofuel blending requirements when the Energy Department didn’t agree with that decision, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Grassley, the Senate’s leading advocate for ethanol, released a letter yesterday he received from Perry.

The secretary outlined in his letter how EPA and his agency haven’t always been in lockstep on the exemptions that small refineries request for reasons of economic hardship.

In one case, Perry said in the letter dated Friday, EPA granted an exemption against DOE recommendations. And while DOE has sometimes recommended partial exemptions of 50% to refineries, EPA has never granted a partial exemption, he said.

Perry didn’t identify the refinery. Officials have said they can’t identify which specific companies receive exemptions, which might reveal confidential business information.

Grassley, who has been critical of EPA for granting exemptions, seized on the letter as evidence that EPA ignores advice from DOE. The renewable fuel standard calls on EPA to consult with DOE on exemptions but gives EPA authority to make the decision.

The senator had written Perry in April, asking whether DOE had changed its criteria on exemption requests, which might affect the advice or recommendations the department gives EPA. Perry said the criteria at DOE haven’t changed since the Obama administration.

Advocates for refiners say EPA has been forced to grant more exemptions in part because of legal challenges that showed the Obama administration was too restrictive in considering them.

The Trump administration has been generous with hardship exemptions, turning down none. EPA received 40 petitions for 2018, which are awaiting determinations. Of those, EPA sent 37 along to DOE for review, Perry said.

Grassley, in a news release, said Perry’s letter illustrates that EPA has undercut ethanol blending requirements under the RFS, despite approving higher-ethanol fuel called E15 for year-round sales beginning this year.

“President Trump delivered on E15, but EPA has been undermining the president’s commitment to Iowa, the Midwest and rural America,” Grassley said. “I hope the White House puts an end to these handouts to Big Oil that hurt American farmers.”