Just days after a Midwest lawmaker pleaded with President Donald Trump to order his EPA to deny requests for so-called gap-year small-refinery exemptions, the agency has posted updated numbers of the number of exemption requests now pending.
The EPA has received 98 total requests for years 2011 to 2020, including now 67 for 2011 to 2018, according to the agency's Renewable Fuel Standard dashboard.
Ethanol and agriculture industry leaders have been calling for EPA to implement a January ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. The court essentially ruled the EPA mishandled exemption requests from three refining companies.
Since 2016 the Trump administration has approved about 85 exemption requests, totaling about 4 billion gallons in biofuels demand.
During a stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this week, Trump was pressed by Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst to reject the pending requests. Trump said he would talk to EPA officials.
Below is a transcript from Trump's exchange during a roundtable, provided by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association:
Ernst: "One thing that would be helpful, of course, with the impact to the ag economy, the loss of so many crops, is our farmers would love to know that with these gap-year waivers that the oil refineries are submitting to the EPA, that we just dispense of those; we not allow them to move forward. Some of these waivers would apply to years -- nine years ago, eight years ago. Our farmers just really need some help this year obviously with the crop damage, and that would be a great step forward."
Trump: "So I approved the ethanol and we did the whole thing with the 12 months (E15) and all of the others. Let me ask you, how is ethanol doing with the markets? It's got to be a little bit tough, right?"
Ernst: "It is. It's very tough right now. And through COVID we saw a decrease in driving. And so the sales of ethanol have not been up where they should be. And we've seen that all across the industry, the impact. And now after the crop damage, it just sets our farmers even farther back."
Trump: "But they'll be ready when the market comes back? They'll be ready like never before."
Ernst: "Yes, they will. And what we need, just help from the EPA to follow the intent of the law with the Renewable Fuels Standard."
Trump: "Alright. We'll speak to them. I'll speak to them myself. I'll do it myself."
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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