Groups call on Trump administration to live up to RFS commitments

By Erin Voegele | September 23, 2020

While the U.S. EPA’s recent denial of 54 gap year small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions was a positive step for the U.S. biofuels industry, representatives of the U.S. biofuel and ag industries are calling on the Trump administration to live up to its remaining biofuel commitments.

Leaders of the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Corn Growers Association and National Farmers Union held a media call on Sept. 23 to discuss the gap year SRE petitions and other actions the Trump administration must take to fulfill the many commitments it has made to biofuel producers in recent years.

“We’re really here today to remind EPA and remind the administration that there is a lot of work that remains to be done, and there are more commitments that remain unfilled,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “It’s time for the administration to finish the job.”

Cooper referenced a meeting at the White House has fall that President Trump hosted to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard. Agriculture Secretary Perdue, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and six midwestern senators were among those to participated in the meeting. “By all accounts everyone left that meeting with the understanding that an agreement had been reached to put the RFS back on track and to stabilize biofuel and agricultural markets,” Coopers said, noting the meeting was memorialized in an memo from the USDA and EPA that established a five-point plan. To date, however, only one element of the five-point plan has moved forward—USDA’s infrastructure development initiative.

While denial of the gap year SRE petitions was a good start, Cooper named five things the administration needs to do to finish the job. First, he said the administration needs to make sure that all of President Trump’s commitments from last fall’s five-point plan are upheld. Second, the EPA needs to reject the remaining 17 gap year SRE petitions as soon as the U.S. Department of Energy finishes its required analysis. Third, Cooper called on EPA to immediately adopt the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal’s January 2020 decision on SREs nationwide and apply it to all pending SRE petitions for compliance years 2019 and 2020. Fourth, he said the EPA must propose the 2021 renewable volume obligations (RVOs), including statutory volumes for conventional biofuels and increased requirements for cellulosic and advanced biofuels. Finally, he said the EPA must ensure that the SRE program is transparent.

Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE, discussed the EPA’s mismanagement of the RFS program over the past three-and-a-half years. “So many promises to do right by this industry have just collected dust,” he said. “I think too many folks misinterpreted last week’s decision to reject some of these gap year waivers as a significant turning point. It wasn’t. It was a step in the right direction, but these gap year waivers should have never been given credibility.”

Jennings called the gap year petitions “nothing more than an outrageous attempt by refiners” hoping to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court ruling. He said the denial of those gap year waivers falls considerably short of undoing the damage the EPA had done to the biofuels industry by effectively letting refiners cheat on the RFS in recent years. “Sanity has not yet been restored to how EPA handles the RFS and the list of broken promises,” he continued, calling on the EPA to quit stalling an formally adopt the Tenth Circuit Court ruling nationwide.