Ethanol Blog

Sen. Cruz: Not Enough Votes to Pass RFS Reform

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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If Renewable Fuel Standard reform is going to move in Congress, legislation currently under development will have a long way to go at least in the Senate.

Speaking at an anti-RFS rally near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told a group of steelworkers and others the bill faces a long haul in the Senate.

"We don't have 60 votes, we're nowhere close to 60 votes," Cruz said, noting that backers of such legislation may as well hope for "magic fairy dust."

Cruz has been a vocal opponent of the RFS. He attended a rally in recent months at the now-bankrupt Philadelphia Energy Solutions, touting the need to reform the RFS to include capping the price of renewable identification numbers, or RINS, as a way to control RFS compliance costs. PES filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection pointing to RINS costs as the primary reason for its financial difficulties.

Cruz has suggested capping the price of RINS at between 10 and 20 cents; a proposal that has received little support.

RINS prices have fallen by about 50% from the middle of February, from about 70 cents to 35 cents as of Wednesday. EPA's granting of small refiner waivers to the RFS since 2016 is considered to be a driving factor in the price drop.

Also this week, current and former members of Congress have stepped up pressure not only for current lawmakers to open an investigation into recent waivers, but have joined a chorus of lawmakers and others calling on the EPA to provide more details on those waivers.

On Thursday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told a House committee the agency had received more than 30 requests just this year for waivers from small refineries. According to DTN's reporting in recent weeks, the agency granted a total of about 40 waivers between 2016 and 2017.

On Thursday, the House Biofuels Caucus that includes Reps. Dave Loebseck, D-Iowa, Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Collin Peterson, D-Minn. and Kristi Noem, R-S.D., asked Pruitt in a letter to "cease all waiver activity" and to consider small refiner waiver requests only during the annual rulemaking process. The EPA has been granting the waivers retroactively. In addition, the lawmakers asked Pruitt a full list of those refineries receiving the waivers from 2015 to 2018.

Earlier this week former Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. and Jim Talent, R-Mo., called on Congress to investigate the EPA's recent waivers.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the former lawmakers said the waiver program was designed to help smaller companies.

"Lawmakers from across the heartland have already demanded the EPA stop abusing these waivers, but Congress can and should do more. The public deserves real answers from Administrator Pruitt about handouts granted under cover of night," they said.

"The waiver provisions established by Congress provide flexibility in dealing with the smallest refining companies, producing fewer than 75,000 barrels per day, and only in unique cases presenting disproportionate economic hardship. But the EPA has warped those provisions to grant tens of millions of dollars in regulatory handouts at the expense of farmers, biofuel workers, and American consumers."

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

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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