EPA Denial of RFS Waivers Good News for Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

Ethanol producers and farmers were pleased to hear Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is denying petitions for retroactive small refinery waivers for the 2011-18 compliance years.

EPA announced it is denying 54 “gap-year” small refinery exemption petitions and will deny the remaining 14 petitions once they are received from the Department of Energy. In announcing its decision, EPA acknowledged that it would be completely inappropriate to grant a waiver to a refinery for a compliance obligation from many years ago, especially when the refinery had already fully complied with the obligation.

EPA also cited the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision from January as an important consideration in rejecting the waiver petitions. Importantly, EPA is applying these petition denials nationally. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) led the litigation in the Tenth Circuit, while the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and American Coalition for Ethanol were co-petitioners.

“The petitions were never anything more than an absurd and bizarre attempt by the refineries to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision in the Renewable Fuels Association v. EPA case,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “This should serve as the final nail in the coffin of these gap-year petitions, and we are eager to put this dark and sordid chapter in the history of the RFS behind us once and for all.”

RFA CEO statement on gap year waiver denials (1:20)

“Asking for waivers for nearly ten years ago was a new low by the oil industry to undermine the RFS and rewrite history,” said NCGA President Kevin Ross. “While denial of these past-year waivers is obviously positive news for farmers and biofuel producers, we’re never going to have the certainty we need until the underlying waiver issue is fully resolved.”

ACE CEO Brian Jennings added, “Simply put, these retroactive waivers ignored the RFS statute and the Tenth Circuit Court decision, so rejection of the gap-year requests is what the law and court precedent required of EPA…The next logical step is for EPA to once and for all nationally apply the precedent set by the Tenth Circuit Court, which likely means denying most of the pending refinery waivers for 2019 and 2020.”

EPA currently has 31 waivers under consideration for 2019 and 2020 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance years.

NFU President Rob Larew also urged the administration to follow up by releasing the overdue Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2021.

ACE, Audio, Corn, NCGA, RFA