As much as Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wants to see biofuels producers and farmers treated fairly when it comes to small-refinery exemptions in the Renewable Fuel Standard, he also wants to see President Donald Trump win re-election.
So even if the EPA's approach to accounting for biofuels gallons waived in the 2021 renewable volume obligations works, it will be some time before it is made public whether the agency is living up to its commitment to require 15 billion gallons of ethanol in the RFS.
During a teleconference with agriculture journalists on Tuesday, Grassley said it may not be known until after the presidential election in November whether EPA is doing what is said it would do.
At the end of last week the U.S. Government Accountability Office told lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives it is launching an investigation into the small-refinery exemptions program. In particular, the group of lawmakers led by Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minnesota, asked the GAO to look at whether EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy changed its methodology for evaluating waiver requests.
Starting in 2016, the agency's practice of granting waivers seemed to have changed. Between 2016 and 2018 the EPA granted 85 exemptions totaling more than 4 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons. During that time the agency granted an average of 28 exemptions per year. From 2013 to 2015 the average number granted was just seven.
Either way, Grassley said Trump will face a lot of questions from farmers while on the campaign trail this year.
"I don't trust the EPA either," Grassley said. "I want the president to be re-elected and this issue is pretty important to farmers of the U.S. This is along the lines of the principle I've had that the public's business ought to be public. Since it's the law shouldn't we know it's being carried out?"
Grassley said he spoke with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler by phone, asking for assurance the agency would make sure 15 billion gallons would be 15 billion gallons.
"Since we aren't going to know about the 15 billion gallons until March 2021, we need to find some way on a regular basis to show (EPA) is giving so many waivers and then adding back gallons," Grassley said.
"If a refinery gets a waiver then somehow shouldn't it be public information?"
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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