In a last-minute effort, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency issued three small refinery exemptions. The action reverses one denial from 2018 and granting two for the 2019 compliance year. The decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear a Tenth Circuit case that overturned three small refinery exemptions that had been inappropriately granted.
In a statement, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor called on the incoming Biden Administration to reverse harm done to rural America through SRE abuse. Skor says, “. Given President-elect Biden’s commitments on the campaign trail, we‘re confident his incoming team will swiftly work to reverse the damage these oil handouts have done to rural America by this midnight maneuvering.”
Rumors that the EPA was prepping to issue the three waivers surfaced last week. EPA’s action brings the total of SREs granted by the Trump Administration to 88, totaling 4.3 billion gallons of biofuel blending demand destroyed.
Read full statements from Growth Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Association below:
Growth Energy Responds to EPA’s New Round of SRE Approvals
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, in a last-minute move by the Trump Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved 3 small refinery exemptions (SRE), reversing one denial from 2018 and granting two for the 2019 compliance year. In a statement, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor called on the incoming Biden Administration to reverse harm done to rural America through SRE abuse.
“Farm families and biofuel workers across the country have worked tirelessly to make a living over the past few months despite a global pandemic. And yet, the Trump Administration’s SRE abuse has piled on to the uncertainty and difficulty that rural Americans are facing every day. Given President-elect Biden’s commitments on the campaign trail, we‘re confident his incoming team will swiftly work to reverse the damage these oil handouts have done to rural America by this midnight maneuvering.”
EPA’s action today brings the total of SREs granted by the Trump Administration to 88, totaling 4.3 billion gallons of biofuel blending demand destroyed.
RFA Will Fight EPA’s Illegal, Last-Minute Refinery Exemptions
The Renewable Fuels Association today harshly condemned the Environmental Protection Agency’s unconscionable and unlawful decision to grant three more small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard with just hours remaining before Donald Trump leaves the White House and Joe Biden is sworn in as President. Last week, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper notified Wheeler of RFA’s intent to legally challenge any waivers issued in the final days of the Trump presidency.
EPA granted two 2019 exemptions, erasing another 150 million gallons of renewable fuel demand. Unbelievably, the Agency also appears to have reversed a 2018 petition that was initially denied, resulting in an additional loss of 110 million gallons of renewable volume blending.
“This midnight-hour attempt by the Trump administration to damage the Renewable Fuel Standard and sabotage the ethanol industry’s recovery from the COVID pandemic simply cannot be allowed to prevail,” Cooper said. “With just hours remaining in his shameful term as EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler couldn’t stop himself from doling out a few more Clean Air Act compliance exemptions to his well-connected friends. But the fact remains that today’s action by EPA is completely without legal merit. It flouts both the statute and recent court decisions that clearly limit EPA’s authority and ability to grant these exemptions. And while this action comes as one last sucker punch from the Trump administration, we are confident it will be a hollow victory for the politically connected oil companies receiving today’s waivers, as the new Biden Administration will most certainly act quickly to restore the volumes erased by these waivers.”
The waivers come less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision in RFA et al. v. EPA, which found EPA had grossly exceeded its statutory authority in granting three exemptions. Previously, Wheeler had claimed EPA would not decide any pending waiver petitions until any and all appeals of the Tenth Circuit decision were resolved.
“In the past, Administrator Wheeler has asserted that the ‘appeals process needs to play out’ before EPA will decide the SRE petitions,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, hypocrisy has been the hallmark of the Trump administration’s EPA, which right to the end has demonstrated its fealty to the nation’s largest polluters, while showing nothing but disdain for America’s hard-working farmers and producers of homegrown renewable fuels. Today’s action by Wheeler and his political enablers will not be forgotten by the women and men across the Heartland whose livelihoods depend on a strong renewable fuels industry and stability and certainty in the RFS policy.”
ACE Reaction to Trump EPA’s Final Refinery Waivers
SIOUX FALLS, SD – On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted three more small refinery exemption (SRE) requests that were pending under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Last week, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General encouraging he ensure that all communications from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and any correspondence of President Trump’s political appointees about the pending SRE petitions be preserved, in part, to ensure that dispensation of the waivers comply with federal laws regarding political appointees’ roles in federal acts affecting a personal financial interest.
“For EPA to hastily approve these waivers on the way out the door is the final painful reminder of their refinery-win-at-all-cost mentality when it comes to the RFS,” said Brian Jennings, ACE CEO. “This reinforces why we felt compelled to write the Inspector General requesting assurance these last-minute actions comply with federal law. Trump’s EPA has operated in the dark when it comes to how it handles the SRE program and these last-minute pardons for refineries by Administrator Wheeler and his staff calls for an investigation.”
ACE’s letter points out that EPA’s use of SREs to undermine the integrity of the RFS for the economic benefit of oil refiners has been subject to ongoing litigation, most notably the Tenth Circuit Court case. The letter makes specific reference to a Nov. 2, 2020 response Administrator Wheeler provided to a question about when EPA would act on pending SRE petitions where he stated that, “I think it would be inappropriate for me to either grant or deny them [SREs] until that litigation [Tenth Circuit] has completely run its course.”
The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the refiners’ appeal of the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, with arguments scheduled for this spring and a decision likely by summer. ACE’s letter goes on to say, “Given Wheeler’s prior explanation of waiting until the Supreme Court has decided, it is perplexing why he appears to be rapidly reversing course.”
The letter encourages the Inspector General to preserve all communications from Administrator Wheeler and other President Trump political appointees about the SRE waiver petitions. “This should include communications among Trump appointees and EPA career staff with trade groups and law firms who represent oil refineries with waiver petitions pending, as well as with officials or lobbyists of these companies directly,” the letter reads, concluding that “this information, in part, is needed to ensure that dispensation of these waiver petitions comply with federal laws regarding political appointees’ roles in federal acts affecting a personal financial interest.”