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Capitol Hill

Legislators tell EPA to stop ‘rubber-stamping’ RFS exemptions

Bipartisan group of House members ask EPA to update analysis on impact of renewable fuels to emissions and farm economy.

A bipartisan group of 25 members of the House of Representatives asked in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prospectively restore Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes lost to small refinery exemptions.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the House group also asked the agency to stop the practice of “rubber-stamping” requests for exemptions and to update its analysis on the benefits of renewable fuels on greenhouse gas emissions, the farm economy and transportation fuel markets.

The letter noted that EPA’s recent announcement of offering 31 small refinery exemptions continues to cast serious doubt on the agency’s ability to administer the RFS in a manner consistent with congressional intent.

“Since early 2018, EPA granted 85 blending exemptions to refineries, which equals more than 4 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuels being taken out of the marketplace. These conditions have caused three ethanol facilities to close permanently and another 14 to idle, affecting nearly 3,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of corn bushels on an annual basis,” the lawmakers wrote.

For the biodiesel industry, the damage is also severe, the letter added, explaining, “Approved exemptions over the last three years have caused demand destruction and nearly $7.7 billion in economic losses to the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry. To date, at least eight biodiesel facilities have shut down this year, which represents 6,800 jobs and 215 million gal. of annual production.”

The letter added that there is unease among constituents about how EPA will handle the RFS reset rule, which is currently under review by the Office of Management & Budget. They requested that EPA update its analysis on the benefits of renewable fuels on greenhouse gas emissions, corn and soybean farmers and consumer demand for biofuel before reaching conclusions on the RFS reset rule.

The legislators asked that EPA account for small refinery exemptions by reallocating waived gallons when promulgating the 2020 renewable volume obligations.

Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) president and chief executive officer Geoff Cooper said his group thanks House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and the other members of the Biofuels Caucus "for their continued support of American farmers and ethanol producers and for recognizing EPA’s legal obligation to account for the impact of refinery waivers in determining annual renewable volume obligations. These elected leaders understand that the Renewable Fuel Standard is an important tool for economic growth, energy security and greenhouse gas reduction. They also know that for these benefits to be enjoyed, EPA must faithfully enforce the law as written.”

TAGS: Policy
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