Senators ask Trump to stop EPA from misusing waiver authority

By Erin Voegele | April 09, 2018

On April 9, five republican senators from the Midwest sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to direct the U.S. EPA to stop misusing waivers that are exempting large oil refining companies from meeting their legal obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

In the letter, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, reference a previous letter they sent to Trump on March 15 relaying their opposition to placing a waiver cap on renewable identification numbers (RINs) and reiterating constructive solutions to lowering the price of RINs. “However, as well await the opportunity to meet with you to continue this dialogue, we must alert you to ongoing [EPA] action that is concurrently undermining your commitment of a 15 billion gallon RFS,” the senators wrote.

The senators note that the EPA is using its small refinery economic “hardship” waiver authority in an unprecedented manner to benefit large refiners, and stress the application of such waivers appears to incongruent with EPA’s own definition of the waiver.

According to the letter, waivers granted for 2016 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) have effectively reduced the 2016 15 billion gallon requirement to 13.8 billion gallons. “If this trend consumes, demand for corn could drop by hundreds of millions of bushels, with some modeling equating such displacement to slashing corn prices as much as 50 to 70 cents per bushel, which would mean a nearly $100 per acre loss for farmers,” the senators wrote. “Notwithstanding the underlying uncertainty regarding the RFS, already suppressed commodity prices, and China’s threatened tariffs, the EPA’s liberal use of hardship waivers is striking a severe blow to farmers and biofuel stakeholders in our states and across the Midwest.”

The senators ask Trump to call on the EPA to cease all RFS waiver action until the agency is able to administer the RFS in a more transparent and impartial manner. “We are concerned that any continued action will further undermine the RFS and violate the good-faith discussions you have fostered toward a true win-win solution,” the senators continued.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Grassley’s website.