Small oil refineries would have an additional six months to show they had complied with their obligations to mix corn ethanol into gasoline during 2019 under an EPA proposal published on Thursday.
Oil refiners are attempting to evade an adverse appellate court ruling by asking the EPA for retroactive exemptions from the ethanol mandate, said biofuel trade groups on Thursday. Refiners have filed 52 petitions for exemptions stretching as far back as 2011, potentially creating a chain of annual waivers that would allow them to seek exemptions now.
The EPA justified its exemption of 31 refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard in a two-page memorandum that it did not reveal for weeks, said a coalition of four biofuel groups and two farm groups in a challenge filed in a U.S. appeals court. The petition was filed at the same time biofuel backers are accusing the EPA of a “bait and switch” on promises to increase ethanol consumption.
The Trump administration is siding with Big Oil despite announcing a plan to increase ethanol consumption, farm state senators told the No. 2 USDA official on Thursday. “That’s a president that has chosen oil companies over family farmers,” said one of the critics, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
As recently as Wednesday, President Trump lauded farmers as “great patriots” for their forbearance in the face of ag exports lost due to the Sino-U.S. trade war. A handful of corn and soybean farmers active in biofuels policy said on Thursday that there is less patience in farm country for the administration’s handling of the ethanol mandate.
President Trump will meet with oil state senators, possibly this afternoon, as the White House referees a long-running dispute over ethanol’s share of the U.S. fuel supply.
A dozen lawmakers called on Wednesday for a review of the explosion in ethanol waivers awarded by the EPA in the past two years. In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers said many of the small-volume refineries that applied for waivers did not need them.
At the same time that POET, the largest U.S. ethanol maker, said it was forced to shut down an Indiana plant due to EPA “mismanagement” of the ethanol mandate, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said that “farmers feel the government isn’t keeping its word” on biofuels.