ACE asks senators to confirm Wheeler’s E15, RFS intentions

By Erin Voegele | January 29, 2019

The American Coalition for Ethanol is urging members of the U.S. Senate to secure evidence on Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s intentions regarding E15 and the Renewable Fuel Standard’s small refinery hardship exemptions before casting their confirmation votes.

On Jan. 29, Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE, sent a letter to members of the Senate encouraging them to secure tangible documentation from Wheeler related to his intent to finalize a legally defensible Reid vapor pressure (RVP) rule to allow year-round E15 sales prior to the start of the 2019 summer driving season, and his intent to reallocate ethanol blending obligations waived for 2016 and 2017 through the small refinery exemption (SRE) provision of the RFS.

In the letter, Jennings asks the senators to hold Wheeler to a high standard because of the harm done to renewable fuels by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Although Pruitt pledged to support the RFS and President Trump’s commitment to expanding ethanol use, he undermined the RFS by approving an unprecedented number of SRE waivers, which eliminated more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol blending obligations in 2016 and 2017. “Furthermore, he refused to reallocate those blending obligations to other refiners, as called for under the law, and failed to initiate a rulemaking to allow E15 use year-round despite the fact it is a priority for the President,” Jennings said. “EPA’s broken promises and abuse of the RFS compel Acting Administrator Wheeler to repair the damage by reallocating the blending obligations and finalizing a legally-defensible rule to allow E15 use before June 1.”

The letter references statements made by Wheeler during a recent Senate hearing in which he said that the agency is currently on schedule to issue a final rule to allow year-round sales of E15 by June 1, but cautioned that timeline could be threatened by the recent government shutdown.

“The shutdown in not a credible excuse for a delay in the E15 rulemaking,” Jennings wrote. “In fact, recent history proves the Trump Administration can expedite high-priority rulemakings,” he said, offering the USDA’s newly proposed work requirements for recipients of supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) benefits as an example. The USDA was able to issue that rule at the direction of Trump in only eight days, Jennings said, noting the president directed EPA to complete an E15 rule more than 100 days ago.

Trump formally nominated Wheeler to serve as administrator of the EPA on Jan. 9. He has held the post of acting administrator since July 9, 2018, following Scott Pruitt’s resignation earlier that month. He previously served as deputy administrator of the EPA. On Jan. 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on Wheeler’s nomination. During that hearing, Wheeler confirmed that the EPA plans to issue a final rule allowing year-round sales of E15 by June 1, but cautioned a prolonged government shutdown would delay those plans. The Senate is expected to vote on Wheeler’s confirmation soon.

A full copy of Jennings’ letter can be downloaded here