Biofuel groups sue over exemptions for small refiners

The Trump administration’s decision to exempt 31 small refiners from biofuel blending requirements has been challenged by a coalition of biofuel industry groups. They filed suit claiming the 2018 exemption decision was carried out in secret.

Before the suit was filed, President Trump stated he had solved the fight, according to S and P Global Platts.

“The whole situation with ethanol that has been going on for so long, for so many years — we have that now where it’s finished, approved, done, and we’re getting things ready to sign,” Trump said, referencing EPA’s supplemental proposal to increase the 2020 ethanol blending mandate.

EPA last week proposed increasing the 2020 mandate by 770 million Renewable Identification Numbers, well below the actual volumes waived on average over the past three years.

RINs are tradable credits EPA issues to track production and use of alternative transportation fuels. For corn-based ethanol, one gallon of ethanol yields one RIN.

“Under the RFS, refinery exemptions should decrease over time, not serve as a free pass for regulators to limit competition from homegrown fuels,” biofuels trade group Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement.

Biofuel groups have promised to keep pushing EPA to restore exempted volumes so that shuttered ethanol plants can reopen

“The EPA pulled a bait-and-switch with the plan President Trump promised on October 4th,” said Daryl Haack, an Iowa corn farmer and treasurer of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “We need those gallons restored – the actual gallons waived, not a bogus estimate. The demand destruction is real. The fix should be too.”

Refiners maintain that the waivers have not hurt ethanol demand, production or exports.

“It will be interesting to see how Growth Energy will hold EPA accountable for damages to rural communities when every shred of data shows that small refinery hardship relief has had no impact on the ethanol blend rate,” LeAnn Johnson Koch of the Small Refiners Coalition said in a statement.

The suit was filed in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, and National Farmers Union.