The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted some refineries full waivers from biofuels regulation for the 2018 compliance year, even though the Department of Energy had recommended partial exemptions, according to an EPA memo seen by Reuters.
However, the list of the refineries which received the waivers did not fall under the EPA’s open records regulations. As OK Energy Today reported earlier, the identifications of the refineries was withheld by the giant agency.
The decision upset the powerful U.S. corn lobby, already angry at the Trump administration’s move in August to grant 31 full exemptions to refineries, freeing them from an at-times costly obligation to use biofuels such as corn-based ethanol.
Democratic presidential candidates also seized on the administration’s use of waivers on Tuesday, calling them a giveaway to the oil industry that hurts farmers already struggling from the effects of the U.S. trade war with China.
The issue shows how President Donald Trump has struggled to simultaneously please the corn and oil industries, key political constituencies leading into next year’s presidential election that have routinely clashed over future biofuels policy.
The Aug. 9 memo showed the EPA granted “full exemptions for those 2018 small refinery petitions where DOE recommended 50% relief.”
The memo, signed by Anne Idsal, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, did not specify how many refineries were involved.
Trump’s EPA has disregarded DOE advice on waivers in the past, Reuters has reported, marking a break from the Obama administration’s EPA, which had often either adopted energy department recommendations or, when it did not, ruled against exempting oil refiners.
An EPA official did not immediately comment.
Agency officials and oil industry representatives have defended the EPA’s expanded use of waivers under the Trump administration, saying they protect refining jobs and there is no evidence they have any impact on ethanol demand.
“Small refinery exemptions are a critical lifeline for small refineries across the U.S.,” said a spokesman for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers refining group.
But biofuel industry representatives called the memo evidence the agency is biased in favor of the oil industry.