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Richard J. Durbin

12/04/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/04/2019 11:46

Durbin, Duckworth To EPA: Newly Proposed Renewable Fuel Standard Blending Targets Will Be Undermined By Abuse Of 'Hardship' Waivers

12.04.19

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), led a public comment letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. The RFS has proven critical to strengthening states' rural and agricultural economies while also helping to ensure a clean energy future. The Senators argued that the proposed rule-which determines how much biofuel is required to be blended into our transportation fuel supply on an annual basis-fails to adequately account for the small refinery exemption (SREs) waivers, including those given to big oil companies. Since 2016, the Trump Administration has granted 85 SREs, effectively waiving more than four billion gallons of biofuels.

Joining Durbin, Duckworth, and Klobuchar on the letter were Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

'The biofuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of rural jobs across the country. This Administration's failure to uphold the RFS has already led to the closure or idling of more than 35 ethanol and biodiesel plants, leaving rural America further behind. To ensure certainty to the marketplace and uphold Congressional intent of the RFS, we encourage the Administration to properly account for waived gallons by using the three-year rolling average of actual SREs and to increase advanced biofuel volumes for the 2020 compliance year. Our environment, farmers, and rural communities depend on this corrective action,' the Senators wrote.

Durbin and Duckworth have introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) that would require EPA transparency with small refinery hardship waivers.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We write to comment on the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. The RFS has proven critical to all of our states in strengthening rural and agricultural economies while helping to ensure a clean energy future. That is why we are concerned that the proposed rule fails to respond adequately to the concerns that have been raised by biofuel producers and others in rural America that depend on certainty in the marketplace.

The proposed rule determines how much biofuel is required to be blended into our transportation fuel supply on an annual basis. While we appreciate the EPA's modest increase of total renewable fuel volumes from previous years, this proposed rule fails to assure renewable fuel producers that the proposed blending targets will not be undermined by the approval of future SREs.

The EPA has asserted publicly that 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel will be required for the 2020 year, yet these proposed volumes fail to account for the expanded use of small refinery exemptions (SREs) retroactively granted by the agency. Since 2016, the Administration has granted 85 SREs, effectively waiving over 4 billion gallons of demand for biofuels.

Over the last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reduced its estimates for corn used in ethanol by nearly 229 million bushels. Our farmers are already struggling due to low prices, uncertainty with access to export markets, and erratic weather events that have caused planting and harvest delays and yield losses. The continued abuse of SREs is contributing to the declining economic conditions in rural America.

On October 15, 2019, the EPA announced the details of a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking. These highly anticipated details fell short of the solution to properly account for waived gallons that was originally promised by the President on October 4, 2019. The proposed supplemental rule fails to account for actual waived gallons by instead using a three-year rolling average of volumes that the Department of Energy recommends. The EPA has continually exceeded the DOE's recommendations on waived gallons and there is no guarantee that this proposed rule will reopen biofuel plants and restore integrity to the program.

The biofuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of rural jobs across the country. This Administration's failure to uphold the RFS has already led to the closure or idling of more than 35 ethanol and biodiesel plants, leaving rural America further behind. To ensure certainty to the marketplace and uphold Congressional intent of the RFS, we encourage the Administration to properly account for waived gallons by using the three-year rolling average of actual SREs and to increase advanced biofuel volumes for the 2020 compliance year. Our environment, farmers, and rural communities depend on this corrective action.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

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