EPA Grants Exemptions

Agency Grants Small-Refinery Exemptions, Points to Work on E85, Atrazine

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The EPA announced late Friday it has granted 31 of 38 pending requests for small-refinery waivers for 2018. (Logo courtesy of EPA)

OMAHA (DTN) -- EPA has granted 31 small-refinery exemptions for 2018 and rejected six, according to a news release from the agency released late Friday afternoon.

Though the exemptions were expected, ethanol groups later expressed outrage in their own statements.

EPA has granted more than 50 waivers since 2016, totaling 2.61 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons not blended in petroleum. Although the agency continues to review the waivers program, it is expected additional waivers will be granted.

Other media outlets reported the agency was set to issue exemptions retroactively on all of the 38 requests for 2018, but the EPA stopped short.

HURTING RURAL AMERICA

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said the continued waiver approvals are hurting rural America.

"At a time when ethanol plants in the Heartland are being mothballed and jobs are being lost, it is unfathomable and utterly reprehensible that the Trump administration would dole out more unwarranted waivers to prosperous petroleum refiners," Cooper said in a statement.

"Today's announcement comes as a total shock, as just two months ago President Trump himself heard directly from Iowa farmers and ethanol plant workers about the disastrous economic impacts of these small-refinery handouts. In response, he told us he would 'look into it' and we believed that would lead to the White House and EPA finally putting an end to these devastating waivers. Instead, the Trump administration chose to double down on the exemptions, greatly exacerbating the economic pain being felt in rural America and further stressing an industry already on life support."

Cooper said there was "absolutely no evidence whatsoever" that small refineries are suffering "disproportionate economic harm" from the RFS.

"Making matters worse, the process remains cloaked in secrecy and bias, and there is mounting evidence that the administration is continuing to grant full exemptions against the recommendations of the Department of Energy -- and even against the advice of some of EPA officials," Cooper said.

PLANTS SHUTTING DOWN

RFA said in a news release that 13 ethanol plants have recently shut down, including three of them permanently as a result of waivers.

NCGA President Lynn Chrisp said in a news release the EPA continues to defy the president's wishes on biofuels.

"Waivers reduce demand for ethanol, lower the value of our crop and undermine the president's support for America's farmers," Chrisp said. "Waivers benefit big oil at the expense of corn farmers who, between losing export markets abroad and ethanol markets at home, are losing patience. Mr. President, you proudly stand with farmers, but your EPA isn't following through."

In extending a carrot to agriculture interests, EPA said in the same news release, "EPA is proud to announce its intention to further explore opportunities to remove regulatory burdens that prevent marketplace entrance and growth to natural gas, flexible fuel vehicles, and E85 fuels."

In addition, the agency said it has also been "in regular communication with the National Corn Growers Association and their state affiliates on the agency's intent to expedite the reregistration of atrazine, a critical crop protection tool for corn. EPA is committed to an expeditious and transparent process to ensure that America's corn growers have the tools they need to grow safe, healthy, and abundant food for all Americans and a growing global population."

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement the EPA has "proven beyond any doubt that it doesn't care about following the law, American jobs, or even the president's promises.

"Now farmers and biofuel producers are paying the price. These exemptions are destroying demand for homegrown energy at a time when family farms are struggling, farm income is plummeting and many ethanol plants have been forced to close their doors or idle production. The impact on rural communities cannot be overstated. President Trump must move quickly if there is any hope of repairing the damage."

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings said EPA is hurting farmers.

"EPA's refiner-win-at-all-costs oversight of the RFS is doing real damage to America's farmers and renewable fuel producers who are already suffering from trade wars and volatile markets," he said.

"The RFS is supposed to ensure the use of ethanol and biodiesel increases from one year to the next, but 85 small-refinery exemptions later and over 3 billion waived gallons represents an enormous step backwards."

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

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(ES/AG)

Todd Neeley