Industry nabs White House sit-down to push blending policy

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Biofuel industry groups urged Trump administration officials in a White House meeting today to maintain biofuel blending requirements, in an effort to make up for waivers the administration granted to some small refineries.

Representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and other groups met with Andrew Olmem, deputy director of the National Economic Council; Deputy Assistant to the President Tim Pataki; and others, but not President Trump, according to an industry source.

Biofuel groups and some farm organizations have criticized the administration since EPA granted biofuel blending exemptions to 31 refineries in August. The exemptions, allowed in the renewable fuels program, apply when refineries demonstrate that the cost of compliance would cause disproportionate economic harm.

The meeting came as the administration prepared to announce tweaks to policies under the renewable fuel standard aimed at boosting ethanol production. Details are cloudy, groups say, but it’s possible the administration will direct overall required biofuel volumes above the levels EPA recently proposed for next year.

Other ideas identified by the Department of Agriculture — which plays a peripheral role in the program — include encouraging wider availability of higher-ethanol fuel such as E15.

In a joint statement, the RFA and other biofuel groups said they “urged the administration to uphold the president’s commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and address the economic crisis” created by the RFS exemptions granted to small refineries.

“We remain hopeful that President Trump will move swiftly to protect farmers and biofuel workers, but efforts to reverse the damage will be meaningless unless the agency acts now to stop the bleeding and accurately account for lost gallons from this point forward, beginning in the 2020 biofuel targets,” they said. “Rural communities across America are counting on this administration to uphold the president’s commitment to biofuels and restore integrity to the RFS.”

Other groups joining the statement were the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board and Fuels America.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters today that he isn’t aware of the details of any forthcoming plan from the administration but that officials had asked biofuel industry groups to come together behind a proposal of their own, which was to be discussed today.

“All I know is that the White House asked the industry to have one proposal or to have a unified proposal,” Grassley said.