House Biofuels Caucus urges Trump to reject SRE petitions

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2021

Members of the House Biofuels Caucus sent a letter to President Trump on Jan. 12 urging him to direct the U.S. EPA to immediately reject any pending small refinery exemption (SRE) requests that do not meet criteria established by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in its January 2020 ruling on SREs.

In the letter, the representatives say they are alarmed by reports that the EPA may issue numerous pending 2019 SREs despite ongoing legal action and commitments from top EPA officials that this would not occur.

“These illegal small refinery exemptions are contrary to legislative intent and hurt our rural economies; they also impede the use of clean, renewable liquid fuel in the marketplace,” they wrote. “This news arrives at the worst time possible as the biofuels industry continues to reel from the economic impacts caused by the COVID19 pandemic. These exemptions, coming on top of 85 waivers already granted by EPA over the past four years, would also cause immense and unnecessary strain to businesses that are desperately trying to keep workers on the payroll.”

The legal action referenced by the letter is the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 8 announcement that it will review the SRE ruling made by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2020. As a part of that ruling, the court struck down three SREs that it said were improperly issued by the EPA and held that the agency cannot “extend” exemptions to any small refineries whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed. The EPA in December recommended that the Supreme Court not review the ruling.

The letter also references the EPA’s decision in September to reject several “gap year” SRE petitions that small refiners had filed in an effort to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court ruling by creating a continuous chain of blending exemptions.

“In September, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler rightfully rejected dozens of spurious and illegal waiver requests from refiners,” the representatives wrote. “But now, with 66 more exemption requests pending, Administrator Wheeler’s sudden reversal is a betrayal to Rural America and our local farmers who depend on stable ethanol and biodiesel markets for their corn and soybeans. This move also harms our essential infrastructure workers who provide fuel to keep our economy running, and our critical supply chains that rely on biofuel industry coproducts. All these benefits are at immediate risk if any 2019 waivers are granted.

“It would be inappropriate to grant any waiver petitions inconsistent with the law and the Tenth Circuit Court decision in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA until currently pending litigation on this issue has concluded,” they continued. “Therefore, we respectfully request that you direct EPA to immediately reject any pending waiver requests that do not meet the criteria established in Tenth Circuit Court’s decision.”

The letter is signed by Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; Cindy Axne, D-Iowa; Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Mariannette Miller-Meeks. R-Iowa; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Ann Wagner, R-Mo.; Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Same Graves, R-Mo.; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.

The Renewable Fuels Association has spoken out to thank the 23 representatives for supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. “We thank these House Members for their bipartisan action this week to help protect and defend the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “With the Trump administration now its final days, we call on all renewable fuel champions to speak up loudly and clearly in defense of the RFS. The stakes are high for the health of rural America, as well as our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and confront climate change.”

The RFA, Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Fuels America, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Farmers Union also issued a joint statement on Jan. 13 condemning rumors of last-minute RFS waivers.

“Reports indicate that the EPA is considering a last-minute flood of oil industry waivers, along with other regulatory favors, that would sabotage the rural recovery and shatter this administration’s promises to supporters across the heartland,” they said. “There is no justification for President Trump, Andrew Wheeler, and their allies to award a massive, short-sighted handout to oil companies at the expense of farm communities. While no one benefits from months of economic uncertainty, if the EPA opts to follow this disastrous course, we would expect the Biden administration to act quickly to reverse the damage and put lost gallons back on the market.”