Ethanol Blog

Pa. Governor Asks EPA For Waiver From Renewable Fuel Standard

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the EPA for a waiver from Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for refiners in his state. (DTN file photo)

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday renewed his November 2018 request from EPA to waive Renewable Fuel Standard volumes, this time citing the economic shutdown from COVID-19 in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Wolf filed a broad petition for a waiver for refiners in the state back in 2018. He also filed the same petition in 2017 and has not received a response from the agency.

"The statutory deadline for a response to my petition passed almost 14 months ago, and, in the interim, EPA has finalized both 2019 and 2020 RFS volume requirements that further underscore the urgent need for a severe-economic-harm waiver," Wolf wrote in the letter.

"In addition, a recent decision of the (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit) has placed the EPA's small-refinery waivers program -- which has been crucial in recent years in keeping a semblance of control on RINs prices -- in jeopardy."

Back in April Governors Greg Abbott of Texas; Gary Herbert, Utah; Oklahoma's Kevin Stitt; Mark Gordon of Wyoming; and Louisiana's John Bel Edwards, asked for an RFS waiver.

Wolf said rising RFS volumes are "severely harming the economies of both the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the entire East Coast region. Merchant refiners such as those in Pennsylvania are struggling to maintain viability under current volume requirements. These refineries face RFS compliance costs that exceed their payroll costs, and, as a result, refiners have laid off employees, reduced benefits, and delayed capital projects."

In recent weeks the EPA received waiver requests from a handful of governors and others, citing COVID-19 as causing economic harm.

Wolf said "economic burdens" imposed by the RFS volume requirements are "unsustainable for refiners operating on tight margins."

In the past few months about 150 ethanol plants have either idled or cut back production.

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday would provide financial relief to ethanol producers.

"The EPA must immediately act to avoid the precise severe economic harm this waiver provision is designed to address," Wolf said in the letter.

"Currently, significant harm to the energy economy is expected to result from depressed demand for transportation fuel. But the 2020 RFS compliance obligations, in their current form, risk transforming the current severe economic harm to existential harm for some of the refineries in our states.

"Accordingly, I again respectfully request that EPA exercise the waiver authority granted to you in the Clean Air Act to mitigate the ongoing severe economic harm that the RFS volume requirements are inflicting on the commonwealth and surrounding region, compounded by the global COVID-19 pandemic."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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