Sioux Falls, SD – Tomorrow marks the 15-year anniversary of Congress enacting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program authorized under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007. American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings released the following statement on the overall success of the program over its 15-year history, but also the mismanagement of the RFS by the Environmental Protection Agency:
“Congress was right to enact the Renewable Fuel Standard because it has indeed resulted in cleaner air, lower priced fuel for motorists, and economic development in rural America. Since the RFS was signed into law, the ethanol industry has experienced improved market share and a growing number of co-products, as well as technology innovations that have driven efficiencies and shrunk the carbon footprints of plants. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has turned the keys of the program over to refiners, who have taken the RFS on a joy ride which has limited the program’s upside potential.
“This is why in addition to constantly defending and protecting the RFS, ACE has been laying the strategic groundwork necessary to leverage ethanol’s low carbon value in the market through new clean fuel policies at the state and federal level.
“We will continue working to get the RFS back on track while also proactively promoting new clean fuel policy solutions to further benefit our climate, drivers, and rural economy.”
The Renewable Fuels Association thanked a bipartisan group of 32 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for calling on President Trump to reject so-called “gap-year” refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“The Trump Administration has now heard from Members of the House, Senators and Governors on this important issue for rural America,” said RFA president and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Even the Environmental Protection Agency itself has noted there are significant ‘issues’ with these waivers, and we urge a speedy denial of these attempts by the oil industry to circumvent federal law and the recent court decision limiting waivers to extensions of ones previously received.”
Cooper noted that, on June 25, a bipartisan group of 16 U.S. Senators called on EPA to reject the waivers, and on June 29, members of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition urged EPA to do the same.
The idea of retroactive refinery exemptions follows a recent decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected a set of waivers granted by EPA that were not simple extensions of prior waivers. The lawsuit was brought against EPA by RFA, the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union and the American Coalition for Ethanol.
Seeking to circumvent this court decision, several refineries have now applied for retroactive waivers for years in which they did not originally request or receive waivers. On June 18, EPA disclosed that 52 new petitions had been received, covering the compliance years 2011 through 2018. In late May, RFA was the first to urge Wheeler to deny any gap-year waivers that came forward.
“The RFS has been a tremendous success, providing a critical value-added market for our farmers, lowering the price of fuel for consumers, and improving air quality across the nation,” the Members of the House wrote in today’s letter. “The EPA’s repeated efforts to undermine the RFS with waivers, SREs, and tepid annual volume requirements continue to undermine the future potential of our local farmers and biofuels producers.”
Sioux Falls, SD – The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings today expressed his disappointment in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for taking no action to follow through on ACE’s request to issue an interim final rule by July 1 to increase the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) for 2020 to the percentage necessary to ensure that the full 20.09 billion gallons required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are used due to the unanticipated drop in ethanol blending as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
This was one of three immediate steps Jennings outlined in an April 3 letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that also urged the Agency to restore the 500 million gallons of remanded volume as ordered by the DC District Court in 2017 and nationally apply the Tenth Circuit Court precedent regarding small refinery exemptions by denying most of the pending waivers for the 2019 RFS compliance year. The Agency not only has the authority to take these steps but must take them to avoid being in violation of the RFS statute which specifically instructs EPA to set the total RVO at a level that ‘ensures the requirements’ of the statutory obligations are met. Jennings issued the statement below following ACE’s July 1 requested deadline:
“When I wrote EPA in early April, it was evident ethanol demand was heading for trouble, so we spelled out three immediate steps existing law or court decisions allowed EPA to take to help cushion the blow. Nearly three months have passed on our requests and it appears the only action EPA has taken is to entertain 52 ‘new’ retroactive waiver requests for refiners suddenly claiming economic hardship dating back nearly a decade in RFS compliance years.
“We can add this to the list of letdowns coming from the Agency with so many opportunities at its disposal to get the RFS back on track.”
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator regarding small refinery exemptions. They’re asking the agency to reject all of the 52 applications for retroactive small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuels Standard for past compliance years.
Governor Noem and Governor Walz are the chair and vice-chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition. “We are concerned that EPA is considering exemptions for prior years that were specifically submitted to evade the court of appeal’s decision by allowing refineries with lapsed SREs to establish a continuous chain of exemptions,” the governors say. “Approving prior-year SREs in this manner ignores the court’s decision and congressional intent, and it will severely impact farmers and rural communities that support the biofuels industry.
Since 2017, the EPA has granted 85 SREs, undermining farmers and biofuel producers throughout the nation.” In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Tenth Circuit ruled that the EPA could not legally award exemptions to refiners that didn’t receive any waivers in previous years and had failed to demonstrate hardship in any way related to the RFS. If all 52 applications get approved, the coalition says it will cost the market more than two billion gallons worth of demand.