Democrat Senators Urge Biden to Restore RFS

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A group of Democratic Senators sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to “restore the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard and quickly reverse the damages done to the RFS by the outgoing Trump administration.”

The letter was sent rom Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and laid out four steps the new Biden administration could take to strengthen the RFS:

Direct EPA to adopt the Tenth Circuit decision nationwide and reject any small refinery exemptions (SREs) that do not meet the standards set forth by the court.
Publish 2021 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) swiftly.
Approve pending pathway applications for corn kernel fiber ethanol and update EPA’s biofuels emissions modeling.
When reaffirming our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, include biofuels.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper thanked the Senators for their support. “These lawmakers understand that when the RFS is properly implemented and enforced, it is an incredibly powerful tool for curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” said Cooper. “They also recognize that the outgoing Trump administration continues to pose a threat to the integrity of the RFS, and we stand with them to defend the program from midnight-hour manipulation.”

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Ethanol Supporters React to Reports of More Waivers

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Reports that the Trump Administration is possibly planning to grant a number of 2019 small refinery exemptions this week have led to strong outcry from ethanol organizations and farm state lawmakers.

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, led a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately reject the issuance of any illegal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) waivers. The letter was co-led with House Biofuels Caucus co-chairs Reps. Angie Craig (MN-02), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), and Adrian Smith (NE-03).

“This news arrives at the worst time possible as the biofuels industry continues to reel from the economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the members wrote. “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.”

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General seeking assurance that any potential last-minute action to grant a significant number of petitions for small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard complies with federal law, given previous remarks by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that it would be “inappropriate” for him to make any decisions on waivers until litigation has “completely run its course.”

The letter encourages the EPA IG to “ensure that all communications from Administrator Wheeler and any other correspondence of President Trump’s political appointees about the pending SRE waiver petitions be preserved. This should include communications among Trump appointees and EPA career staff with trade groups and law firms who represent oil refineries with waiver petitions pending, as well as with officials or lobbyists of these companies directly.”

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RFA Announces DC Staff Changes

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The Renewable Fuels Association has announced two new staff members for the organization’s Washington DC office.

Troy Bredenkamp is joining the association’s staff as its new Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs. Bredenkamp, who currently serves as the Executive Director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska, starts in RFA’s Washington office on January 19. He replaces Jessica Bennett, who is departing RFA after three years of service.

In addition, RFA announced the addition of Gidel Dawson in the Washington office as Manager of Government Affairs and Communications. Dawson’s professional experience includes working on Capitol Hill for a Virginia congressman and roles in fundraising, event planning, and marketing/communications. She is a native of Rockwell City, Iowa, and a graduate of Creighton University.

Finally, RFA is announcing a new title for Ed Hubbard, RFA’s long-serving General Counsel. To better reflect his expertise and the breadth of his duties, Hubbard’s title is changing to General Counsel and Vice President for Government Affairs. Hubbard will continue to lead tax and trade policy issues for RFA, while also supporting RFA’s work on energy, climate, and agricultural policy and regulation.

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EPA Chief Wheeler Will Not Resign

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Photo provided by MS Farm Bureau

During an agricultural event in Mississippi on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said he will not resign from the Trump Administration.

“I was disgusted by the events of last Wednesday,” he said in answer to a reporter’s question. “I believe in the best interests of the agency, in order to ensure a smooth transition to my successors, it’s important for me to stay on.”

Wheeler was in Mississippi to announce a $2 million dollar initiative that encourages smart and sustainable pest control in agriculture. The initiative, which is an extension of EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP), expects to award grantees up to $200,000 to implement sustainable pest management practices that align with the agency’s goal of providing a healthier environment for all Americans.

“EPA wants farmers to choose what they can use in their fields and not have it chosen for them,” said Wheeler.

Listen to Wheeler’s remarks and press questions here:
EPA chief Andrew Wheeler in Mississippi (15:28)

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Supreme Court Will Hear RFS Waiver Case

Cindy Zimmerman

Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the 10th Circuit Court decision made a year ago this month that invalidated several small refinery exemptions issued by EPA under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The decision is in response to a petition submitted in September by HollyFrontier Corporation and CVR Energy, two of the refineries named in the case.

The 10th Circuit Court decided unanimously in favor of the petitioners – the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and American Coalition for Ethanol – determining that EPA abused its authority by granting small refinery exemptions that were not extensions of previously existing exemptions. In April, the Tenth Circuit denied the refiners’ request to re-hear the case.

When the refiners petitioned the Supreme Court in September, the biofuels coalition said there was no reason for further review or consideration of the ruling. “It is well-reasoned and based on a plain reading of the Clean Air Act, which clearly intended small refinery exemptions to be temporary and used only as a ‘bridge to compliance’ for certain eligible small refineries. Additionally, there are no conflicting decisions in other federal courts of appeal.”

No date was set for oral arguments.

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Gov. Reynolds to Address Virtual 2021 Iowa RFA Summit

Cindy Zimmerman

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds will once again join other biofuel supporters from around the country at the Virtual Iowa Renewable Fuel Summit to look back on past obstacles overcome and future growth opportunities within the state for biofuels.

“Governor Kim Reynolds has been a true champion for biofuels and has taken every opportunity to seek growth opportunities for ethanol and biodiesel,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said. “We look forward to hearing her thoughts on a path forward for biofuels in 2021.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit is taking place on January 26th and is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register to attend and learn more, visit IowaRenewableFuelsSummit.org.

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Groups Reject EPA Excuse for Non-Compliance with Court Order

Cindy Zimmerman

Farm and biofuel organizations are rejecting the Environmental Protection Agency‘s excuses for failure to comply with a 2017 court order invalidated the agency’s improper waiver of 500 million gallons for 2016.

The coalition, which includes the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and National Sorghum Producers, this week filed its reply in support of its motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

“EPA should not be allowed to hide behind claims that restoring 500 million improperly waived gallons is an administrative burden that would inconvenience oil industry interests. What’s at stake is the proper implementation of the RFS and the rural communities that rely on its success for their livelihood. As we have made clear, EPA has had the ability and the authority to do the right thing and remedy these lost gallons immediately and on a definite schedule. EPA’s delay and disregard for the court’s directive for more than three years is inexcusable.”

The motion asks the court to enforce its 2017 decision requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address its improper waiver of 500 million gallons of biofuel demand in the 2016 renewable volume obligation (RVO). The reply brief filed this week reasserts that “EPA’s delays in remedying the improper waiver are unreasonable and confirms that the court has the authority to require EPA to issue a 500 million gallon “curative obligation” to make up lost gallons, and to do it now.”

In the July 2017 ruling of the case Americans for Clean Energy et al. v. EPA et al., the court invalidated the EPA’s improper waiver of 500 million gallons in the 2016 RVO and ordered EPA to revisit the rule. The court held that EPA’s interpretation of the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver provision “runs contrary to how the Renewable Fuel Program is supposed to work.” To date, EPA has failed to open any proceedings to reconsider the 2016 RVO and has not restored the 500 million lost RIN gallons.

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EPA Proposes Consent Decree for One Refinery Waiver

Cindy Zimmerman

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency published a notice of proposed consent decree and request for public comment in the Federal Register to settle a 2019 refinery waiver petition by February 19.

United Refinery filed a complaint against EPA in July 2020 alleging that the agency “failed to take final action on its petition for a small refinery hardship exemption from its 2019 obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program established by the Clean Air Act.” The proposed consent decree would establish a deadline for EPA to act on the petition. The EPA SRE dashboard currently shows 32 requests for 2019 and 14 for 2020 that have not been answered.

Written comments on the proposed consent decree must be received by February 3, 2021.

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Ethanol Groups Want Transparency in SRE Process

Cindy Zimmerman

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy filed a joint FOIA request Tuesday calling on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to release the names and locations of refineries granted exemptions from their Renewable Fuel Standard obligations.

RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper and Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor offered the following joint statement on the filing: “The public has a right to know which companies are receiving waivers from their Clean Air Act obligations and skirting requirements to blend cleaner, greener renewable fuels like ethanol. It is disingenuous for EPA to suggest that the names and locations of the exempted refineries constitute confidential business information, especially when the Agency itself has twice proposed to publicly disclose this information. We will not stop our efforts to bring transparency to this process until the shroud of secrecy has been lifted on the small refinery exemption program.”

The dispute centers on EPA’s refusal to provide certain basic information about refinery exemptions as requested by RFA and Growth Energy under the federal Freedom of Information Act. EPA incorrectly claims that even the names and locations of refineries receiving waivers are protected because they constitute “commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.” But RFA and Growth Energy have simply requested the names and locations of the refineries petitioning for exemptions, not any commercial information or financial data that might otherwise be exempt from public disclosure under FOIA.

“Although EPA shares the aggregate number of exemptions it has decided to grant or deny, its withholding of the basic information regarding individual exemption decisions sought here has made it difficult or impossible for affected third parties (such as Plaintiffs) to challenge its exemption decisions,” RFA and Growth Energy state in the court filing. “EPA has relieved scores of refineries of their statutory compliance obligations without any public process, leaving Plaintiffs and other affected entities ‘without a viable avenue for judicial review.’”

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Author and Energy Expert Daniel Yergin to Headline NEC

Cindy Zimmerman

Pulitzer Prize winning author and energy expert Daniel Yergin will be a keynote speaker at the 26th annual National Ethanol Conference. Dr. Yergin will speak the morning of Wednesday, February 17, with a presentation titled, “The New Map: Energy and Geopolitics Coming Out of the Pandemic.”

“Dr. Yergin’s appearance at the NEC will be especially timely this year, as the geopolitical landscape continues to shift, climate policies are rapidly reshaping fuel markets, and the energy sector continues to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID pandemic,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper.

Currently the vice chairman of IHS Markit, one of the leading information and advisory firms in the world with 16,000 employees worldwide, Dr. Yergin has served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board under Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. He is a director of the Council on Foreign Relations and a trustee of the Brookings Institution, serving also on the Energy Advisory Council of the Dallas Federal Reserve.

As an exclusive benefit for participating in this year’s NEC, all registered attendees will receive a copy of Dr. Yergin’s newest book, 2020’s The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations. It has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by both USA Today and NPR, and The Book of the Year by Bloomberg Surveillance

Taking place digitally February 16-18, 2021, the National Ethanol Conference is the most widely attended executive-level conference for the ethanol industry. For more information, visit www.NationalEthanolConference.com.

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