Stabenow criticizes plan to bail out oil refiners with USDA funds

By Erin Voegele | September 17, 2020

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is speaking out to criticize the Trump administration over reports that it plans to use $300 million in USDA funding to bail out small oil refineries that are denied small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Stabenow, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released a statement on Sept. 17 citing a report by Reuters that states the administration is considering using at least $300 million in USDA funding to aid small refineries that are denied SRE petitions for RFS compliance year 2019. EPA data shows 29 SRE petitions are currently pending with the agency for compliance year 2019.

“It is outrageous for the Administration to even consider taking away millions from our farmers to bail out Big Oil,” Stabenow said. “Over and over, the Trump Administration has sided with oil companies over family farmers. This would be yet another insult to hard-working biofuel producers who are already struggling under a mismanaged RFS program and an erratic trade policy. It’s time for the President to stop paying lip service to farmers and stand up for American agriculture.”

The office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has also weighed in on the reports. “Giving away Commodity Credit Corporation funds to Big Oil that were meant for struggling farmers would be an outrage,” said a Grassley spokesperson. “Thankfully, the law is clear, so there’s no reason to believe Secretary Perdue would ever consider such a thing. Given the Trump administration’s rejection of gap-year SREs this week, it’s not a surprise that Big Oil is looking elsewhere for government handouts.”

News of the administration’s plan comes only days after the EPA announced it would deny at least 54 gap year SRE petitions that were filed by small refineries in an effort to circumvent a January 2020 ruling by Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that determined the agency cannot extend SREs to any small refinery whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed. Those gap year SRE filings aimed provide the impacted refineries with a continuous string of SRE approvals, allowing them to remain eligible for future waivers of their RFS blending requirements. Without the approval of the gap year SREs, only a small handful of small refineries are expected to be eligible for future SREs.