Democrats Urge EPA to Halt Hardship Waivers

A dozen members of Congress on June 20 asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to stop granting small refineries hardship exemptions from their biofuel blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard until he answers questions that would allow Congress to evaluate the program. 

The letter, signed by 12 Democrats, including Rep. Paul Tonko, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Environment of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, came just days before the Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing evaluating current and future prospects of advanced biofuels under the RFS. NATSO member Robin Puthusseril, vice president and co-owner of Greater Chicago I-55 Travel Plaza, is scheduled to testify at that hearing June 22 on behalf of NATSO.

[Watch the hearing titled, “Advanced Biofuels Under the Renewable Fuel Standard: Current Status and Future Prospects” here live on June 22 at 9:15 a.m.

“We are deeply troubled by the lack of transparency and continued manipulation of the RFS program through your misuse of the small refinery exemption process,” the representatives wrote.

NATSO, along with the American Petroleum Institute, oppose use of the exemptions, which undercut investments fuel marketers have made in renewable fuel infrastructure.

EPA has the authority to grant waivers freeing small refineries from their obligations from mixing biofuels under the RFS if they can prove that it would cause them an economic hardship. In recent months, however, EPA has granted an unprecedented number of these waivers, including to some of the nation’s biggest refineries.

EPA has been under fire for abusing the waivers to quietly undercut the RFS after the agency in early April exempted Andeavor, which posted net profits of $1.5 billion last year, from complying with the U.S. biofuels regulation.

EPA is only allowed to grant waivers for refineries producing less than 75,000 barrels per day that can demonstrate economic hardship, yet the agency exempted Andeavor, which is one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies. The exemption released the company of its obligation to provide EPA with the biofuels credits that show it has complied with the RFS.

The lawmakers asked Administrator Pruitt to answer a series of questions so that they could “evaluate the need for this expansion of the exemption process.”

[Read a copy of the June 20 letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt here].

In April a group of 13 Senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also urged Administrator Pruitt to cease issuing the hardship waivers and asked the agency to provide information about the waviers already issued and outline the agency's plan for making the waiver process more transparent.

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman's photo

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman develops and executes communications strategies to advance NATSO’s public relations and advocacy goals. Tiffany also develops and oversees partnerships related to the NATSO Foundation’s public outreach initiatives. Tiffany lives in the D.C. metro area with her husband and their two sons.More

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