Just when he thought he was out

Source: BY KELSEY TAMBORRINO, Politico • Posted: Monday, March 16, 2020

 The president is once again caught in the middle of a spat between oil refiners and ethanol producers centered around small refinery exemptions under the RFS, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports.

The White House is trying to set up a meeting with Trump, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and potentially other senior officials this week to decide whether EPA should appeal a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decisionfrom January that curtailed its issuance of SREs to gasoline makers, according to three people in the oil refining and biofuel industries.

Following the court ruling, EPA had been expected to apply the ruling nationwide and drastically cut the number of exemptions it issued. But the president received pressure from House and Senate Republicans, and Attorney General William Barr, not to do so, which prompted the administration to instead request an extension until March 24 on whether to appeal the ruling.

As recently as last week, Trump told corn champion Sen. Joni Ernst(R-Iowa) he would not appeal but would instead ask EPA to apply some kind of cost controls, according to a source familiar with the call. And with the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing Americans to hunker down at home, fuel consumption is dropping and makers of both biofuels and gasoline are seeing weak demand.

The biofuel and oil industry sources say the White House has not reached a decision on whether to file an appeal, and a meeting is designed to help resolve the matter. “The decision to delay the appeal decision was seen as a way to buy additional time,” said an oil industry source. “I think it is safe to say that the world has changed a bit since last Friday and that, hopefully, folks at the [White House] have more important things to worry about than [biofuel credit] prices right now.”

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