Refineries threaten EPA as ethanol fight ramps up

Source: By James Osborne, Houston Chronicle • Posted: Friday, July 19, 2019


WASHINGTON – An attorney representing a group of unnamed refineries is threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it doesn’t start granting waivers from the federal ethanol mandate.

The attorney, LeAnn Johnson Koch, a D.C.-based energy attorney with the law firm Perkins Coie, said in a letter dated Wednesday that they would file a federal lawsuit in 60 days time unless the EPA starts issuing waivers, which are granted to smaller refineries that can prove the mandate poses a financial hardship.

“The uncertainty over whether or not hardship relief will be granted has tied up small refineries’ precious working capital and prevented them from investing in their refineries to make efficiency improvements to remain competitive and profitable,” the letter read.

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The legal threat comes as the Trump administration has delayed issuing waivers to refineries, following political push back from Midwestern corn farmers, who sell their crops to ethanol producers to make fuel.

Trump had hoped his decision to loosen air pollution restrictions to allow the year round sale of the fuel E15, which contains 15 percent ethanol compared to 10 percent in standard gasoline, would assuage farmers’ objections to the waivers.

“They’re concerned and I think the president heard that concern directly from farmers,” Geoff Cooper, president of the ethanol industry trade group Renewable Fuels Association, said earlier this month. “The year-round allowance for E15 doesn’t do much if anything for ethanol demand if the (mandate) is not being fully enforced.”