Senators Blame EPA for Issuing RFS ‘Hardship’ Waivers that Undermine the Law

Sen. Charles Grassley, IA

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) led a bipartisan group of 13 senators in writing to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting the agency cease issuing so-called “hardship” waivers exempting obligated parties from the Renewable Fuel Standard, provide topline information about the waivers already issued, disclose whether or not the agency redistributed the waived volume obligations among the non-exempted obligated parties and outline the agency’s plan to make the waiver process more transparent.

Grassley and Klobuchar were joined by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Debbie Stabenow (R-Mich.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

We visited on Wednesday with Senator Heitkamp about the letter and waiver situation.

Rusty Halvorson and Sen. Heitkamp visit in her D.C. offices in May, 2017.

“We are writing to you regarding the actions the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken to undermine commitments President Trump made on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to our constituents,” the senators wrote. “Recent reports indicate dozens of small refiner waivers have been secretly granted to large, multibillion-dollar companies under the guise of the small refinery hardship exemption provision in section 211(o)(9) of the Clean Air Act. This is extremely concerning to us.”

In their letter, the senators cited the confirmation hearing testimony of Pruitt, in which he stated, “Any steps that the EPA Administrator takes need to be done in such a way as to further the objectives of Congress in that statute, not undermine the objectives of Congress in that statute.” The senators also noted Pruitt’s October 2017 letter, in which he stated, “I reiterate my commitment to you and your constituents to act consistent with the text and spirit of the RFS. I take seriously my responsibility to do so in an open and transparent manner that advances the full potential of this program…”

News reports indicate that EPA has already issued 25 “hardship” waivers to large, multibillion-dollar refining companies making billions of dollars in profits since 2016. The senators state that such action would “represent a clear violation of your commitments and clearly undermine the President’s long-standing support of the RFS.”

The senators requested that EPA:

  • Cease issuing any refinery waivers under the RFS;
  • Provide a full list of the refiners that have received a refinery waiver in 2016, 2017 or 2018;
  • Provide a detailed report to Congress describing EPA’s justification for providing the waivers and if the volumes were redistributed to other obligated parties; and
  • Describe EPA’s commitment and plan to consider future small refinery waivers only during the annual RVO rulemaking process and commitment to provide full notice and opportunity for comment on any future small refinery waiver requests.