EPA on Monday denied dozens of requests from oil refineries seeking economic hardship exemptions from ethanol blending requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard dating from 2011 through 2018.
The details: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in his denial letter that he rejected the 54 petitions largely on the advice of DOE, which determined that the refineries did not suffer much hardship in the years in question. While the letter did mention a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruling from January which voided three refinery exemptions from the biofuel blending rules, Wheeler did not cite the court's opinion as part of his reasoning.
“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthens our energy independence,” Wheeler said in a statement. “At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”
In its opinion earlier this year, the federal appeals court said refiners must have held exemptions continuously to apply for new waivers from the biofuel blending requirements. That prompted refiners to submit 68 petitions from 17 small refineries in 14 states for the intervening “gap” years to create such a record. DOE transmitted its advice to EPA on 54 of them at the end of July.
Monday’s denials do not apply to outstanding requests for exemptions from 2019 and 2020 mandates.
The politics: The new EPA order adds to Trump's growing list of ethanol-friendly moves aimed at shoring up his tight race for reelection in Iowa. Over the weekend he removed federal hurdles that prevented retail gas stations from selling 15 percent ethanol fuel using existing fuel infrastructure, and on Friday the U.S. Trade Representative announced a 90-day extension on an ethanol export quota with Brazil.