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Senators to EPA: Reject Retroactive Biofuel Waivers
Michigan Ag Connection - 06/26/2020

Senators: "Granting these petitions would worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that it supports while violating EPA's own policy on this issue"

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led a bipartisan letter with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reject petitions for Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for past compliance years. In the letter, the senators warn that granting these petitions would worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and demand that the EPA apply the 10th Circuit decision nationally.

"We urge you to reject these petitions outright and respond in writing to our questions about recent use of SREs under the RFS. These petitions should not even be entertained because they are inconsistent with the Tenth Circuit decision, Congressional intent, the EPA's own guidance, and -- most importantly -- the interests of farmers and rural communities who rely on the biofuel industry," the senators wrote.

"The approval of SREs for past compliance years at this moment would only worsen the unprecedented economic challenges facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that it supports. EPA must deny these petitions and apply the 10th Circuit decision nationally."

Klobuchar, Ernst, Duckworth and Grassley were joined by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Thune (R-SD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in Renewable Fuels Association v. EPA that EPA had exceeded its authority in granting SREs under the Renewable Fuel Standard to three refineries in 2016 and 2017, and that moving forward, EPA may only issue SREs to refineries that have continuously received exemptions for every compliance year since 2011. Recently, the EPA confirmed that they have received 52 new petitions for retroactive SREs that, if granted, would bring oil refiners into compliance with the Court ruling by allowing them to establish a continuous string of exemptions.

For years, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to strengthen the RFS to support American jobs and decrease dependence on foreign oil. Klobuchar has led several letters urging the Administration to cease issuing small refinery waivers and reject changes to the RFS that would upend stability and predictability for small businesses and rural communities.

In December, Klobuchar led a public comment letter to Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. The senators argued that the proposed rule--which determines how much biofuel is required to be blended into our transportation fuel supply on an annual basis--fails to adequately account for the waivers, including those given to big oil companies. Last October, Klobuchar sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the agency to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage.

The National Biodiesel Board thanked the bipartisan group of 16 Senators who today urged EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to immediately reject the 52 recently filed exemption petitions for prior compliance years. The letter expresses the Senators' frustration and alarm that Wheeler is considering exemptions for refineries that either did not submit petitions or were not granted waivers in past years but are now seeking to circumvent a January 2020 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Kurt Kovarik, NBB's vice president of federal affairs, stated, "Biodiesel producers and soybean farmers across the country are already facing unprecedented economic challenges. A brand-new flood of unlawful small refinery exemptions is guaranteed to compound the damage from the past several years. The Senators are exactly right that EPA should immediately reject these petitions as inconsistent with a federal court decision. We thank Senators Amy Klobuchar and Joni Ernst for their leadership."

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