WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied 54 petitions from oil refiners asking for economic hardship exemptions from blending ethanol as required under the Renewable Fuels Standard, Politico reports. The exemptions are for so-called “gap-years” of 2011 to 2018. These denials do not impact any unresolved exemption requests from 2019 and 2020.
Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator, cited lack of hardship during those years as the main reason for rejecting the petitions. However, the letter did allude to a January 2020 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that had annulled three refinery exemptions from biofuel blending regulations.
“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said Wheeler in a statement. “At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”
The federal appeals court decision said refiners should have held exemptions for consecutive years in order to apply for new blending waivers. That ruling generated 68 petitions from 17 small refiners in 14 states for help in creating a “gap” year record. The U.S. Department of Energy gave the EPA its take on 54 of those petitions in late July, prompting Wheeler’s letter.
This past weekend, Trump got rid of federal restrictions that didn’t allow gas stations to sell E15 through existing E10 fuel pumps.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual RFS volumes of biofuels that must be used for transportation fuel for four categories of biofuels: total, advanced, cellulosic and biomass-based diesel. EPA implements the RFS program in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy and consistent with the Clean Air Act. EPA’s longstanding interpretation of the Clean Air Act allows for the granting of a petition for exemption from blending requirements under the RFS program for the reason of demonstrated, disproportionate economic hardship.