Perdue discusses RFS waivers during Senate hearing

By Erin Voegele | April 11, 2018

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue briefly addressed the U.S. EPA’s misuse of Renewable Fuel Standard hardship waivers during an April 11 hearing held by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.

During the hearing, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., referenced a letter that he and four colleagues sent to President Donald Trump on April 9, urging him to direct the EPA to stop misusing waivers that are exempting large oil refining companies from meeting their legal obligations under the RFS.

On April 3, Reuters reported that EPA provided waivers for 2016 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) to three of the 10 refineries owned by Andeavor, one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies. News reports were updated April 4 to note that the agency granted 25 small oil refineries hardship waivers under the RFS last year.

“Our concern is that if you are going to use that waiver authority, you really need to use it in the way it’s been intended,” Blunt said, noting another factor that will reduce commodity prices is not what the agriculture community needs to see right now.

In response, Perdue said he has seen the letter “and I concur with your opinion.”

Perdue noted that the waivers granted by EPA have effectively reduced the statutory volume for conventional biofuel below the 15 billion gallon statutory volume requirement. He said the USDA has asked the EPA for information on the waivers that have been issued and indicated that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has promised to supply the requested information to USDA as soon as the agency can gather it.

Perdue also said that demand destruction caused by the waivers, when coupled with trade current trade dispute anxieties, “is having an accumulative effect over our producers and their financers and bankers and others in the whole supply chain of agriculture.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has called on Trump and Pruitt to listen to Perdue. “President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt would be wise to listen to Secretary Perdue because he’s right about the fact that EPA’s so-called ‘hardship’ waivers to wealthy refiners destruct demand for ethanol and break the president’s promise to maintain the RFS,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “Secretary Perdue is demonstrating the kind of leadership rural America expects from the administration so we express our sincere thanks for speaking out and standing up.”