Federal lawmakers expecting the Trump administration to announce a new round of small-refinery exemptions for 2019 to the Renewable Fuel Standard any day, asked President Donald Trump to reject the 32 pending requests.
In a letter to Trump on Tuesday, members of the House biofuels caucus tell the president to continue to adhere to a federal court decision last year that found the agency illegally granted waivers to three companies in 2016.
Refiners that were subjects of that case will argue their case before the Supreme Court in the spring.
"We are alarmed by reports that the Environmental Protection Agency may issue numerous pending 2019 small-refinery exemptions despite ongoing legal action and commitments from top EPA officials that this would not occur," the caucus said in the letter. "Granting any of these waiver requests will further devastate America's rural communities as they continue to struggle amidst a difficult economy."
Twenty-three members of the House who signed the letter, said the exemptions are "contrary to legislative intent."
"This news arrives at the worst time possible as the biofuels industry continues to reel from the economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter said.
"These exemptions, coming on top of 85 waivers already granted by EPA over the past four years, would also cause immense and unnecessary strain to businesses that are desperately trying to keep workers on the payroll.
In September, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler rejected more than 50 waiver requests. The lawmakers said if EPA approved exemptions for 2019 it would be "a betrayal to rural America and our local farmers who depend on stable ethanol and biodiesel markets for their corn and soybeans.
"This move also harms our essential infrastructure workers who provide fuel to keep our economy running, and our critical supply chains that rely on biofuel industry coproducts. All these benefits are at immediate risk if any 2019 waivers are granted."
Also, on Tuesday, American Coalition for Ethanol Chief Executive Officer Brian Jennings reached out to EPA Inspector General Sean W. O Donnell, asking the agency to monitor EPA's decision on the 2019 waivers.
"Unfortunately, we understand that Administrator Wheeler and other political appointees at EPA are considering granting a significant number of these waivers on their way out the door to the private sector," Jennings said in a letter. "We are unaware of any substantive change in circumstance surrounding whether to grant or deny these waivers. In fact, the Supreme Court's decision to hear the refiner appeal gives more clarity about when the legal challenges will be complete.
"Therefore, we encourage you to ensure that all communications from Administrator Wheeler and any other correspondence of President Trump's political appointees about the pending SRE waiver petitions be preserved."
Read the biofuels caucus letter here: https://files.constantcontact.com/…
Read the Jennings letter here: https://ethanol.org/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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