Representative Craig, Members of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus Lead Bipartisan Rebuke of Trump Administration’s Last-Minute Reversal on Small Refinery Exemptions

Members expressed concern that the Administration’s decision to grant dozens of waivers “would pull the rug out from under America’s rural communities as they continue to struggle amidst a difficult economy”
January 13, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Angie Craig joined other Members of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus in a bipartisan effort urging the Trump Administration to reaffirm their commitment to Rural America by rejecting all pending small refinery exemptions (SREs) – which could allow more than sixty additional oil refineries nationwide to circumvent renewable fuel volume obligations mandated by the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard. In a letter addressed to President Trump, the Members expressed alarm at recent reporting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to issue dozens of SREs in the final days of the Trump Administration – despite outstanding litigation in the federal courts and previous commitments from top EPA officials that such waivers would not be granted. The Members, who represent rural communities across America, argued that these exemptions would harm rural economies and threaten the biofuels industry, which continues to struggle with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In September, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler rightfully rejected dozens of spurious and illegal waiver requests from refiners,” wrote the Co-Chairs. “But now, with 66 more exemption requests pending, Administrator Wheeler’s sudden reversal is 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.”

In the face of bipartisan opposition as well as several legal challenges, the Trump Administration has issued 85 blending waivers over the last four years – in what some have categorized as a giveaway to the oil industry at the expense of struggling farmers in rural communities. Earlier this year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump Administration’s issuance of additional waivers had exceeded statutory authority and were deemed unlawful. That ruling has been challenged and is still pending litigation. Earlier this year, top officials at the EPA assured the nation’s farmers that such exemptions would be halted as part of the Administration’s “commitment to support America’s farmers.” The Co-Chairs of the Biofuels Caucus argued that the Administration’s reversal would represent “a betrayal to Rural America and our local farmers…”

Text of the letter is copied below and available PDF iconhere:

January 12, 2021

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,

We are alarmed by reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may issue numerous pending 2019 small refinery exemptions (SREs) despite ongoing legal action and commitments from top EPA officials that this would not occur.1 Granting any of these waiver requests will further devastate America’s rural communities as they continue to struggle amidst a difficult economy. 

These illegal small refinery exemptions are contrary to legislative intent and hurt our rural economies; they also impede the use of clean, renewable liquid fuel in the marketplace. This news arrives at the worst time possible as the biofuels industry continues to reel from the economic impacts caused by the COVID19 pandemic. 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 rightfully rejected dozens of spurious and illegal waiver requests from refiners. But now, with 66 more exemption requests pending, Administrator Wheeler’s sudden reversal is 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.

It would be inappropriate to grant any waiver petitions inconsistent with the law and the Tenth Circuit Court decision in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA until currently pending litigation on this issue has concluded. Therefore, we respectfully request that you direct EPA to immediately reject any pending waiver requests that do not meet the criteria established in Tenth Circuit Court’s decision.