Reaction around the biofuels industry has been overwhelming to the news. The Renewable Fuels Association today welcomed the official denial by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of 54 “gap-year” small refinery exemption petitions and thanked President Trump for taking an active role in helping to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In announcing its decision, EPA acknowledged that it would be completely inappropriate to grant a waiver to a refinery for a compliance obligation from many years ago, especially when the refinery had already fully complied with the obligation.

EPA also cited the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision from January as an important consideration in rejecting the waiver petitions. Importantly, EPA is applying these petition denials nationally. RFA led the litigation in the Tenth Circuit, while the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and American Coalition for Ethanol were co-petitioners. Responding to today’s EPA announcement, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper offered the following statement:

“We are pleased to see EPA is officially denying 54 so-called ‘gap-year’ small refinery exemption petitions, and we look forward to EPA similarly denying the remaining 14 petitions once they are received from DOE. Rejecting the petitions is simply the right thing to do, and today’s decision marks a big step forward toward fully restoring integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard. This should serve as the final nail in the coffin of these gap-year petitions, and we are eager to put this dark and sordid chapter in the history of the RFS behind us once and for all.

“The petitions were never anything more than an absurd and bizarre attempt by the refineries to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision in theRenewable Fuels Association v. EPAcase. We wholeheartedly agree with EPA’s conclusion that ‘these small refineries did not demonstrate then or now that they experienced a disproportionate economic hardship from compliance with the RFS,’ as such a demonstration would be impossible for these refineries to make. EPA is correct that these refineries ‘do not warrant an exemption’ and we are pleased to see Administrator Wheeler acknowledge that Congress did not intend to exempt small refineries ‘that already successfully complied with their RFS obligations.’

“We sincerely thank President Trump for stepping in to prevent the oil industry from running roughshod over the RFS and ensuring that blending requirements are not further eroded by unwarranted exemptions. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the many members of Congress who led the fight against these illegitimate waivers. We thank them for their dedication to protecting and defending the RFS against baseless attacks.”

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today welcomed the news, while pointing out that 14 gap-year waivers remain under required review at the Department of Energy (DOE). The EPA also has 31 waivers under consideration for 2019 and 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance years.

“Asking for waivers for nearly ten years ago was a new low by the oil industry to undermine the RFS and rewrite history. Denying these petitions was the obvious answer and farmers are pleased to begin to move past this distraction. We thank our bipartisan supporters in Congress, including Senator Ernst, for their advocacy in upholding the RFS.

“While denial of these past-year waivers is obviously positive news for farmers and biofuel producers, we’re never going to have the certainty we need until the underlying waiver issue is fully resolved.

“Nearly a year ago, the President directed the EPA to follow the letter of the law and keep the RFS whole and, in January, the Tenth Circuit ruled the EPA exceeded its authority in granting waivers. The Administration has yet to apply this decision to current waiver requests while corn farmers suffer suppressed markets and ethanol plants continue to have idled capacity.

“The solution is simple; the EPA needs to uphold the law, adhere to the Tenth Circuit decision, and follow through on the President’s commitment to farmers. Corn growers stand ready to work with the Administration to uphold the RFS and continue to remove barriers to higher ethanol blends.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied small refinery gap year exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard, adhering to the President’s commitment of 15 billion gallons of blended biofuels for the nation’s fuel supply per year:  

“As Iowa farmers grapple with trade disruption, a global pandemic, and the aftermath of a devastating derecho, it’s critical that we take action to help our ag economy. Today’s decision by the Trump Administration eliminates much of the uncertainty surrounding small refinery exemptions that undercut demand for biofuels. It’s a significant step forward for Iowa’s renewable fuel industry and another example of President Trump honoring his commitment to Iowa farmers. 

“Today also could not have happened without the relentless efforts of Senator Joni Ernst, who has always been a friend of Iowa’s biofuel industry. Whether it's on the Senate floor or in the Oval Office at the White House, Joni has worked tirelessly to secure Trump’s support for biofuels.” 

“We can never stop fighting for our renewable fuels industry and that’s why I will continue to work with President Trump as well as U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to protect our biofuel markets now and in the future.” 

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig released the following statement today in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to deny 54 retroactive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) exemption requests submitted by U.S. refineries.

“From CARES Act and disaster-recovery funding to blocking the latest round of retroactive biofuel blending waivers, the Trump administration continues to support Iowa farmers and our state’s agriculture-based economy,” said Secretary Naig. “This decision was critical to upholding the spirit of the RFS and growing demand for cleaner-burning biofuels.”

Iowa leads the nation in renewable fuels production. The state is home to 43 ethanol refineries capable of producing over 4.5 billion gallons annually, and 12 biodiesel facilities capable of producing nearly 400 million gallons annually, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. The biofuels industry provides jobs in rural communities, additional markets for agricultural products, and gives consumers more choices at retail fuel sites.

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