OUR OPINION: RFS waivers for refineries produce concern

Source: By Editorial Board, Sioux City Journal • Posted: Monday, April 22, 2019

We join Iowa elected leaders and renewable fuel industry leaders in expressing concern about the extent to which the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency grants “hardship” waivers to the Renewable Fuel Standard for refineries.

This question sums up the concern: Are refineries who get a waiver in fact forced, as they should be, to demonstrate compliance with the RFS causes them “disproportionate economic harm” or are waivers too liberally granted by the EPA?

The federal RFS began with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels.

In a news conference at the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant near Council Bluffs on Wednesday, Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, and Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said 39 refinery exemptions amounting to more than one billion gallons of ethanol volume await a decision by the EPA today. That’s in addition to 50 waivers amounting to more than 2.5 billion gallons of ethanol volume granted to refineries by the EPA over the last two years.

“We believe it is time for the EPA to address this threat to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Naig said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a leading critic of EPA waivers to the RFS, sent a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry asking for clarity about the department’s review process concerning RFS hardship exemptions submitted by refineries. The DOE provides recommendations on exemption requests to the EPA.