Fischer, Duckworth introduce RFS Integrity Act

By Erin Voegele | May 25, 2021

Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., on May 25 introduced the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act, which aims to bring additional transparency and predictability to the U.S. EPA’s small refinery exemption (SRE) process.  

The bill would require small refineries to petition for SREs by June 1 of each year. The change would ensure the EPA is able to properly account for exempted gallons in the annual renewable volume obligations (RVOs), which are set each November for the following year. The legislation would also require the EPA to publish the name of the refinery and how many gallons are exempted at the same time the refiner is notified that they received an exemption.

The bill, S. 1792, was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. In addition to Duckworth, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; John Thune, R-S.D.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have signed on to cosponsor the RFS Integrity Act.

Efforts to implement the RFS Integrity Act have been ongoing for several years. Most recently, companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 19 by Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; and Angie Craig, D-Minn. That bill, H.R. 1113, was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. In addition to Johnson and Axne, 13 members of Congress have cosponsored the bill.

A prior version of the bill was  introduced by Johnson and former Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., in May 2019. Provisions of the bill were also previously included in H.R. 4447, which the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 229 to 187 in September 2020. The Senate, however, failed to act on that legislation.

Several representatives of the biofuels industry have spoken out ins support of Fischer’s bill.

Growth Energy applauded the effort to push for transparency on SREs. “This legislation provides long-overdue transparency for requests to avoid blending more low carbon renewable fuels that are key to America’s low-carbon future,” Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We applaud Senators Fischer and Duckworth for working to protect the integrity of the RFS so that farmers and biofuel producers, as well as the entire fuel supply chain, across the nation can count on stable demand and continue providing cleaner and more affordable fuel choices at the pump.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol released a statement endorsing the bill. “ACE thanks Senators Fischer and Duckworth for leading the reintroduction of this bipartisan legislation to ensure the statutory volumes of the Renewable Fuel Standard are enforced by restoring transparency and integrity to EPA’s handling of small refinery exemptions,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “This legislation is necessary because under President Trump, EPA brazenly granted nearly 90 waivers for small refineries, erasing over 4 billion gallons from the RFS volumes established by Congress. As of today, 70 additional refinery waivers are pending. While the Biden EPA appears to be focused on getting the RFS back on track and we remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision to limit waivers moving forward, the RFS Integrity Act complements those efforts.”

The Renewable Fuels Association called the bill an important step toward getting the RFS back on track. “The Renewable Fuels Association thanks Senators Fischer and Duckworth for their bipartisan leadership and determined efforts to bring more transparency and certainty to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “The previous administration’s reckless abuse of the small refinery exemption program resulted in countless lost opportunities for ethanol producers, farmers, and consumers alike. While we remain hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon put this issue behind us once and for all by affirming the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision in RFA et al. v. EPA, introduction of the RFS Integrity Act marks an important step forward toward getting the program back on track.”

The National Biodiesel Board said the bill would help create certainty for stakeholders. “This is a commonsense and timely step to ensure that RFS biomass-based diesel volumes – once set – provide certainty for all stakeholders and are fully met,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs at the NBB. “Right now, EPA is considering 70 exemption petitions from refiners seeking to undermine the integrity of the RFS.  We thank Senators Fischer and Duckworth for their leadership in optimizing the RFS to achieve the nation’s goals for clean, homegrown ene