Pruitt Provides Vague Answers About RFS Exemptions

Cindy Zimmerman

The budget for the Environmental Protection Agency was the topic of two separate House hearings Thursday, but lawmakers spent the majority of the time addressing other concerns with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was brought up immediately by House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment Chairman John Shimkus of Illinois, who made it clear he would like to see Congress make any decisions about changes in the program, rather than the agency. “Potential administrative actions (to change the RFS) hang like the sword of Damocles over efforts on Capitol Hill to reach an enduring, legislative solution to the problems of that program,” said Shimkus. Pruitt responded that there were administrative actions that he believes can be taken, such as transparency in the RIN market and granting the RVP waiver to allow year round sales of E15, but “Congress’ role is very important.”

Rep. Shimkus questions EPA Admin. Pruitt

One of the many subcommittee members from Texas, Rep. Gene Green, questioned Pruitt about the number of RFS small refinery hardship waivers that have been granted by EPA, saying that the oil industry agrees with the ethanol industry that information should be made public. Pruitt gave a vague response about the actual numbers, saying last year they received request numbering “somewhere in the mid-20s” for the 2016 obligations, but “we received more than that this year” for 2017.

Rep. Green questions EPA Admin. Pruitt

Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack asked the administrator what he intends to do about the more than one billion gallons of biofuels required by the statute that have been waived away. “Under Section 211 of the Clean Air Act, the EPA administrator is required to reassign gallons that are waived under the small refiner exemption to other obligated parties,” said Loebsack, asking Pruitt if he had done so. “It’s my understanding that process has happened as it’s supposed to,” Pruitt replied. Asked if he would provide the names of refineries, Pruitt said, “Subject to the confidential business information.” Pruitt told another member that he was “not sure” whether Carl Icahn’s CVR Energy had applied for a waiver, and did not directly answer whether the company might have received one, saying “These exemptions are governed by statute.”

Rep. Loebsack questions EPA Admin. Pruitt
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