Senators urge EPA to review the 3 SREs approved in January

By Erin Voegele | February 04, 2021

A bipartisan group of 15 senators sent a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Jane Nishida on Feb. 3 urging the agency to review the three small refinery exemptions (SREs) approved by the Trump administration on Jan. 19.

“Your predecessor, former Administrator Andrew Wheeler, took action to exempt three unidentified oil refineries from their 2018 and 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations under the Clean Air Act just hours before the inauguration,” the senators wrote. “These exemptions betrayed earlier assertions made by the Trump Administration that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not grant or deny additional waivers pending the resolution of ongoing litigation over the use of the small refinery waiver authority.”

The letter cites the January 2020 decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that determined the EPA had “grossly exceeded” its authority by granting certain SREs. The Supreme Court on Jan. 8 indicated its intention to review the Tenth Circuit case. Oral arguments are expected this spring, with a decision expected by summer.

“As this litigation is ongoing, we respectfully ask that you review the three waivers issued by Mr. Wheeler on January 19, 2021,” the senators continued. “If these waivers do not meet the three-part test laid out in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals then we urge you to immediately reverse them and deny the refiners’ waiver requests.”

“Because the Tenth Circuit decision is the most definitive legal pronouncement to date regarding EPA’s small refinery waiver authority, we encourage the agency to adhere to that decision for the purposes of deciding all pending exemption petitions during the pendency of the Supreme Court’s review of the decision,” the senators added.

The letter also stresses that the EPA could provide additional certainty and stability to the renewable fuels marketplace by swiftly issuing a proposed rule to set 2021 renewable volume requirements (RVOs) under the RFS that provides growth in all fuel categories and restores 500 million gallons of blending requirements that were illegally removed from the 2016 RVO. In addition, the senators ask the EPA to move forward with the E15 streamlining proposal published last month.

“Not only would the actions requested in this letter restore integrity to the RFS and revive confidence throughout our nation’s farm communities, but they would also help fulfill commitments made by President Biden to expand the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources,” the senators wrote.

The letter is signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Michael Rounds, R-S.D.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; and Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Growth Energy has spoken out in support of the letter. “We’re grateful that these senators are standing up for American farmers and biofuels producers,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “When EPA granted three small refinery exemptions in the final hours of the Trump Administration, we were disheartened to see more SRE abuse and uncertainty for rural Americans after a tough year. The Biden Administration must review these exemptions and take this opportunity to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard and the biofuels industry as a whole.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Ernst’s website