Duckworth urges investigation into EPA’s abuse of biofuel waivers

By Office of Sen. Tammy Duckworth | May 23, 2019

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., asked the U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to launch an independent investigation into whether top EPA officials violated the law by inappropriately exempting a number of oil refineries from having to use legally required levels of biofuel. A recent report from Reuters exposed how top EPA officials, including former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, lied to Congress and the American public about why they started granting a large number of waivers to oil refineries, which drove down prices of renewable identification numbers (RINS) to multi-year lows.

“Recent document disclosures reveal that the EPA misled Members of Congress, industry and the public in regard to the agency’s motivations and justifications for its small refinery exemptions (SRE) policy,” Duckworth wrote in a letter to EPA Acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan. “This deception by EPA political appointees may indicate improper motives and conflicts of interest, and it warrants a thorough review by the EPA OIG.”

The Trump EPA reportedly granted 35 waivers in 2017, significantly more than the 7 waivers the Obama Administration granted the previous year. Duckworth has been a vocal critic of the EPA’s abuse of the waiver program, calling attention to how some of the waivers have been given to large and profitable oil companies, including one owned by billionaire Trump friend and former White House advisor Carl Icahn. Duckworth has previously called on the administration “to stop abusing small refinery waivers and end its other harmful policies that are hurting farmers and contributing to the idling and closing of ethanol plants.”

In this letter, Duckworth also called attention to how Trump appointees may have violated federal law prohibiting executive branch officials from participating in matters that affect their financial interests. She has previously asked the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate whether Icahn used his White House position to influence the application of the Renewable Fuel Standard to benefit a refinery he owns.

Duckworth has also been a strong supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which supports a $5 billion biofuel industry in Illinois that employs more than 4,000 people. She has joined farmers across Illinois in urging the EPA to adopt higher ethanol-based fuel requirements and she has been critical of efforts within the Trump Administration to undermine it by shifting the point of obligation for meeting the RFS from oil refiners to blenders.

 A full copy of the letter is available here.