Former Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who played key roles in developing the Renewable Fuel Standard, called for Congress to investigate the EPA’s recent waivers to major refiners. The National Biodiesel Board, which says it supports “a strong Renewable Fuel Standard,” hailed the action by the former senators, in a statement issued April 25.
“Who better to help clarify the intent of these small refinery exemptions than those who helped write the law in the first place? It is no surprise that they stand against the actions of the EPA,” said Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “The EPA’s decision to give handouts to large, profitable refiners has a direct and lasting negative impact on biodiesel producers, renderers and farmers. We will continue our push to return transparency and certainty to the marketplace.” The National Biodiesel Board is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries, including producers, feedstock suppliers and fuel distributors.
Thirteen years after working to enact the RFS, Dorgan and Talent say EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s use of waivers skirts the law and threatens to undermine the renewable fuels industry.
“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,” the former senators said in the NBB statement. They added:
“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.
“The EPA’s actions not only undermine the intent of Congress, they undermine a renewable energy industry that supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Congress has a right and an obligation to investigate the approval process for each and every handout.
“The RFS remains the single most successful energy policy working to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, while delivering real economic and environmental benefits. It supports prosperity across rural America and brings cleaner, more affordable options to the fuel pump, including blends of American-made ethanol, biodiesel, and cellulosic biofuels. The President vowed time and again to support the RFS, and Congress should work with the White House to make certain that Administrator Pruitt is staying true to that promise in public and behind closed doors.”
The National Biodiesel Board said it submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request “aimed at shedding light on small refiner exemptions requested and issued under the Renewable Fuel Standard.” The NBB also said it joined the American Soybean Association and the National Renderers Association urging President Trump to keep his promises to rural voters to uphold a strong RFS.
“Press coverage has indicated the EPA has granted exemptions to several refineries for the 2016 and 2017 compliance years, including one of the nation’s largest,” the NBB said. “EPA has apparently granted Andeavor a hardship waiver for its three smallest refineries, while their profits last year were approximately $1.5 billion dollars,” NBB said. “At least two other refineries with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profits appear to have also been granted exemptions.”
NBB noted, “Last week, a bipartisan group of 13 Senators wrote Pruitt urging him to cease issuing hardship waivers. The letter also requests the following actions immediately:
- Cease issuing any refinery waivers under the RFS;
- Provide a full list of the refiners that have received a refinery waiver in 2016, 2017 or 2018;
- Provide a detailed report to Congress describing EPA’s justification for providing the waivers and if the volumes were redistributed to other obligated parties; and
- Describe EPA’s commitment and plan to consider future small refinery waivers only during the annual RVO rulemaking process and commitment to provide full notice and opportunity for comment on any future small refinery waiver requests.
“Granting secretive ‘hardship’ waivers to some of the nation’s most profitable petroleum giants undermines the law and destroys demand for homegrown biofuels,” said Kovarik. “We applaud the efforts of the Senators to shed light on EPA’s actions.”
The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The RFS originated in a bi-partisan Congress with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Dorgan is a North Dakota Democrat who served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years. He sat on the Senate Energy Committee and was one of the original authors of the RFS. He is now a senior policy adviser at Arent Fox, whose clients include the National Biodiesel Board.
Talent is a Missouri Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 2002 to 2007. He was a co-author of the RFS and currently serves as Chair of Americans for Energy Security and Innovation (AESI), which supports homegrown, renewable energy to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.