Members of Congress urge Wheeler to change SRE proposal

By Erin Voegele | October 28, 2019

Nearly two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Oct. 23 urging him to reconsider the agency’s recently small refinery exemption (SRE) proposal and uphold the White House’s commitment to farmers.

The letter references the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the EPA on Oct. 15 seeking comments on the agency’s plan for accounting for future SRE waived volumes in annual Renewable Fuel Standard rulemakings.

The representatives stressed the rulemaking does not fulfill the agreement reached by the White House, EPA and USDA as conveyed to stakeholders by way of the EPA’s announcement on Oct. 4.

The letter notes that 85 SREs have been approve since the start of 2016, resulting in a net loss of more than 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels. That loss has been devastating to the lawmakers’ local economies.

“Given the vast number of [SREs] that have been granted since 2017, we are disappointed in the proposed rule as it would not change the proposed volumes for 2020 to wholly account for a realistic average of SREs that have been granted and may be granted in the future,” the members of Congress wrote.

“This announcement does more harm than good for our producers and lends to even greater uncertainty in this challenging farm economy,” they continued. “As published, the proposed rule, despite outlining several potential approaches to reallocate a fraction of the lost gallons, states that the EPA may consider adjusting methodology for projecting the exempt volumes of gasoline and diesel. This is problematic, and not only because the various calculations are based on prior years and do not account for most recent damages, but because it leaves room for the possibility of an even more detrimental calculation.”

The lawmakers urge Wheeler “to publish a rule that lends confidence in the process, requiring the EPA to use the average number of [SREs] granted in the previous three calendar years when formulating the renewable volumes obligation for an upcoming year, as conveyed to stakeholders.” They also argue that the final rule must bring assurance to farmers and producers not just for the 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVOs), but permanently, given the damages caused by the SREs.

“We cannot support a proposal that does not set our farmers and producers on a path toward certainty by ensuring that a fix applies to all future years,” they continued. “As you move forward, on behalf of the EPA, USDA and the White House, we strongly urge you to reconsider the proposal and uphold the commitment that was made to our farmers.”

The letter is signed by Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; James Comer, R-Ky.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Ann Wagner, R-Mo.; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; Steve Watkins, R-Kan.; Steve King, R-Iowa; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Mark Pocan, D-Wisc.; Paul Mitchell, R-Mich.; James R. Baird, R-Ind.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn.; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; Ron Estes, R-Kan.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; and Adrian Smith, R-Neb.

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