WASHINGTON, DC – Applications for oil refiners to be exempted from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) have been a contentious election for President Donald Trump. His administration took a step to alleviate those political pressures Monday by denying so-called “gap year” waiver requests.
The 10th Circuit Court ruled that the requests, or small refinery exemptions, could only serve as extensions of previous requests dating back to 2011, not new requests. Consequently, refiners filed 68 new petitions for RFS waivers to fill those gap years where they did not seek exemptions.
EPA’s order says any application where the Department of Energy (DOE) determined a refiner should receive no relief or 50% relief would be denied. According to industry association Growth Energy, the denial covers 54 gap year waiver requests where the DOE had rendered an opinion. There are 14 additional gap year requests still awaiting a DOE evaluation.
“Today’s action lifts a cloud of uncertainty that has been hanging over America’s farmers and biofuel producers since June,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We’re grateful to farm state champions who have led a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate and governors across the heartland in speaking out against oil-backed efforts to dodge the law, circumvent the courts, and upend markets.”
The EPA ruling comes two days after President Trump tweeted that the federal government will allow 15% blends of ethanol fuel to be pumped in existing infrastructure designed for E10.
“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a press release announcing the waiver denials. “At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”
U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released a statement after EPA Administrator Wheeler announced that the Trump Administration will reject 54 “gap” small refinery exemptions:
“President Trump and the administration made the right decision in rejecting these 54 ‘gap’ small refinery exemptions. Farmers and ethanol producers across the Heartland now have more certainty because of this important decision. In a tough year for biofuels producers, it’s encouraging to see this commitment to rural America.”
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) also released a statement:
“Today’s decision by Administrator Wheeler is a landslide victory for Nebraska agriculture producers and for consumers around the nation. In a year marked by uncertainty, I thank the President for his leadership in providing opportunity for the biofuels industry to meet its full potential. I look forward to working with the administration on sound energy policy which benefits our hard-working farmers and producers.”
Smith, a champion of the biofuels industry and a member of the Biofuels Caucus, has led the charge for pro-ethanol policies. In July, Smith joined Biofuels Caucus colleagues in writing to President Trump asking Trump reject these SREs in accordance with the law.