Senators urge EPA to ensure RFS won’t be undermined by SREs

By Erin Voegele | December 04, 2019

A group of nine senators, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a public comment letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in late November expressing concern over the agencies proposal to account for future small refinery exemptions (SREs).

In the letter, the senators note they are concerned that the proposed rule fails to adequately respond to the concerns that have been raised by biofuels producers and others in rural America that depend on certainty in the marketplace.

“The proposed fuel determines how much biofuel is required to be blended into our transportation fuel supply on an annual basis,” the senators wrote. “While we appreciate the EPA’s modest increase of total renewable fuel volumes from previous years, this proposed rule fails to assure renewable fuel producers that the proposed blending targets will not be undermined by the approval of future SREs.”

The senators stress that while the EPA has publicly asserted that 15 billion gallons of conventional fuel will be required in 2020, the proposed volumes fail to account for the expanded use of SREs retroactively granted by the agency.

“Over the last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reduced its estimates for corn used in ethanol by nearly 229 million bushels,” the senators wrote. “Our farmers are already struggling due to low prices, uncertainty with access to export markets, and erratic weather events that have caused planting and harvest delays and yield losses. The continued abuse of SREs is contributing to the declining economic conditions in rural America.”

According to the Senators the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking release by the EPA on Oct. 15, 2019, regarding its plan to reallocate future Renewable Fuel Standard volumes lost to SREs falls short of the solution to properly account for waived gallons that was originally promised by President Trump on Oct. 4, 2019, because it proposes to use a rolling three-year average of U.S. Department of Energy SRE recommendations rather than actual waived volumes. “The EPA has continually exceeded the DOE’s recommendations on waived gallons and there is no guarantee that this proposed rule will reopen biofuel plants and restore integrity to the program,” the senators wrote.

“The biofuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of rural jobs across the country,” they continued. “This administration’s failure to uphold the RFS has already led to the closure or idling of more than 35 ethanol and biodiesel plants, leaving rural America further behind. To ensure certainty in the marketplace and uphold Congressional intent of the RFS, we encourage the administration to properly account for waived gallons by using the three-year rolling average of actual SREs and to increase advanced biofuel volumes for the 2020 compliance year. Our environment, farmers, and rural communities depend on this corrective action.”

In addition to Klobuchar, the letter is signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; and Tina Smith, D-Minn.

A full copy of the letter is available on Klobuchar’s website.