Refiners take new tack to win EPA ethanol blending waivers

Source: By Eric Wolff, Politico • Posted: Monday, June 15, 2020

 Small oil refiners — still reeling from the pandemic-driven collapse in fuel demand — have petitioned EPA to grant them economic hardship status dating back to 2013 in an apparent move to pave the way for the agency to free them from this year’s Renewable Fuel Standard mandates to blend ethanol with their gasoline, oil and ethanol industry sources tell POLITICO.

If granted, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports, the unprecedented requestcould allow small refiners seeking exemptions from RFS requirements for 2020 to meet the standard set by a federal court in January that said only facilities that had obtained those exemptions continuously since they were first offered in 2013 were eligible to receive them for the current year.

EPA has yet to act on the petitions. Instead, the agency placed them in an administrative hiatus in order to avoid reporting their existence in an online dashboard created by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to increase transparency, according to two people who work in the oil industry.

The move by the refiners once again puts the administration in a tight political spot over whether to side with corn farmers, whose votes Trump needs in states like Iowa, or to back the refining sector that employs blue collar workers in places like Pennsylvania that could be crucial in November’s election.

In a statement to ME, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Wheeler “fully understands” the damage that expensive compliance credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers, have on small refineries. “I expect the administrator, based on his past commitments, not to sit idly by while RIN prices continue to increase and to provide relief to small refiners that is authorized by Congress,” he said.

Small refiners have petitioned EPA to grant them economic hardship status dating back to 2013 that would free them from the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates to blend ethanol with their gasoline, oil and ethanol industry sources tell POLITICO. If granted, the unprecedented request would allow small refiners seeking exemptions from RFS requirements for 2020 to meet the standard set by a federal court in January that said only facilities that had obtained those exemptions continuously since they were first offered in 2013 were eligible to receive them for the current year. “We strongly oppose the so-called ‘gap-year’ waivers and do not believe EPA has the authority to grant them,” said RFA CEO Geoff Cooper. “This gap-filling scheme is no more than a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court’s January decision requiring that EPA may only grant exemptions that are continuous extensions of prior-year waivers.”

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