70 Midwest mayors ask EPA to reject RFS waiver requests

By Erin Voegele | May 11, 2020

A group of 70 mayors representing cities and towns in the Midwest sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on May 11 urging him to reject any requests to waive 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard blending requirements.

“Some of us have already seen our local ethanol plant shutter its doors while others have witnessed their local ethanol plant reduce operations,” the mayors wrote. “This is having devastating ripple effects throughout our economy. Such waivers would further damage our communities and the farmers, workers, and families who depend on a vibrant biofuels industry.”

The letter notes that falling fuel demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 70 ethanol plants to idle and another 70 to significantly reduce production. “In just two months, more than half of U.S. ethanol production is offline, putting more than 350,000 jobs throughout rural America at risk,” they mayors continued. “The biofuels industry is reeling.”

The mayors stress that the request for RFS waivers is unjustified under the law. “Such waivers from RFS requirements may only be granted if there is a demonstration that the RFS causes severe economic harm to the economy as a whole,” they wrote. “In reality, refiner market conditions are a result of plummeting demand for gasoline across the country, not compliance with the RFS. Further, the RFS already considers demand reduction by adjusting annual blending volumes to reflect actual motor fuel demand.

“Lastly, the claim that higher renewable identification numbers (RIN) prices hurt refiners is wrong,” the mayors said. “According to EPA’s own RIN market analysis study released in 2015, the agency found that merchant refiners are not disadvantaged by higher RIN prices as costs are recovered in the sale of their product.

“Our communities depend on the RFS to support commodity prices for our farmers, high-skilled job opportunities for our workers, and reduce harmful air pollutants in our air,” the mayors continued. “We ask that EPA reject unjustifiable RFS waiver requests and protect rural communities.”

Growth Energy has spoken out in support of the letter. “Communities in our nation’s heartland are accustomed to challenges, but COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve experienced,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “When biofuel production shuts down, everyone hurts--from farmers and truckers to meatpackers and ranchers that need animal feed and carbon dioxide for refrigeration. The last thing our communities can afford right now is another pitched battle with oil lobbyists seeking to cash in on the pandemic by destroying farm and biofuel markets under the RFS.”

“We’re deeply grateful to America’s mayors for taking up this call to action on behalf of Growth Energy’s members, who work tirelessly to support the communities they call home,” added Skor.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Growth Energy website