Trump, Wheeler get rare praise from biofuel groups as US EPA denies 54 pending 'gap' SRE petitions
On Sept. 14, the U.S. EPA, led by Administrator Andrew Wheeler and at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, denied 54 of the 68 pending "gap" small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions from obligated parties under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard for compliance years 2011-'18. The much-anticipated decision is being heralded by biofuel and agriculture organizations across the country, and it is seen as a move that will help restore integrity to the RFS while providing a measure of certainty for biofuel manufacturers and farmers alike.
"The decision to deny these absurd petitions filed by refiners simply to skirt their obligations under the law is the right call," said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board. "I am hopeful EPA will continue to apply this standard to the remaining gap exemptions and to future petitions. We look forward to working with the administration to restore growth in the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry and ensure that RFS volumes for biomass-based diesel are met." Speaking for the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry the NBB represents, Kovarik gave a special thanks to Iowa leaders Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, and Gov. Kim Reynolds, for making an effective case for the lawful resolution of these gap SRE petitions.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association stated that these petitions "were a transparent attempt by some oil refiners to 'end run' a recent decision by the Tenth Circuit Court that limited EPA’s ability to grant RFS exemptions once a refinery has completed its transition to full RFS compliance."
Monte Shaw, IRFA executive director, said, "Today's action by the Trump EPA short circuits a blatant attempt by some oil refiners to skirt the RFS law. With gap year waivers denied, the number of refiners eligible to even apply for―let alone receive―an RFS exemption going forward is reduced to single digits. As long as the Trump EPA applies the recent Tenth Circuit Court ruling nationwide, a ruling they have officially accepted by default given their decision not to appeal it to the Supreme Court, the long RFS refinery exemption nightmare should be over."
Shaw went on to say that 2019 will be the first compliance year when the RFS was actually enforced at statutory levels. "A special debt of gratitude is owed to Sen. Joni Ernst who publicly pressed this very issue with President Trump during his trip to Iowa on Aug. 18," Shaw said. "Assuming the Tenth Circuit Court directives for the remaining RFS exemption requests are followed, President Trump is on track to uphold his promise to Iowa voters to protect the RFS."
Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said, "With those waivers denied, and assuming EPA applies the recent court ruling nationwide, the exemption issue we have battled for so long should significantly improve. This turnaround would set the RFS on the right track again."
The Iowa Soybean Association's newly elected president, Jeff Jorgenson, added, "Iowa's biodiesel plants and soybean farms, like mine in southwest Iowa, and our communities will benefit from putting an end to the slow leak that has hampered the RFS. We look forward to working with the administration on restoring growth."