U.S. Representatives Angie Craig and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), co-chairs of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure transparency and predictability to the Environmental Protection Agency’s small refinery exemption (SRE) process. The Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act would require small refineries to submit a petition for a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hardship exemption by June 1st of each year, allowing EPA to properly account for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligations set each November. The bill would also increase transparency by mandating the public disclosure of data surrounding SREs – a process that has previously been carried out behind closed doors with little to no congressional oversight.
Craig and Johnson were joined in introducing the RFS Integrity Act by Representatives Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb). Rep. Craig’s recent appointment to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will allow her to play a key role in fighting for its passage and enactment in the 117th Congress. Her role on this Committee positions her to champion biofuels as Congress considers climate change and clean energy packages in the coming months.
“For the past several years, the Environmental Protection Agency has skirted Congressional oversight and prioritized the interests of Big Oil over family farmers in Minnesota, leaving ethanol producers at a distinct disadvantage,” said Representative Angie Craig. “This senseless, shortsighted policy has greatly impacted rural communities who depend on the Renewable Fuel Standard to help support their local economies – at a time when these communities are especially vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Fortunately, our bipartisan bill would reverse that trend by helping to ensure that transparency, predictability and accountability are prioritized in the EPA’s waiver process moving forward – and that rural communities receive the support they deserve from the federal government in the years to come.”
“No matter the administration, Congress should not sit on the sidelines while the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard is being abused and manipulated,” said Representative Dusty Johnson. “The RFS Integrity Act adds accountability and transparency to the EPA Small Refinery Exemption process – something we should all agree upon. With each approved waiver, rural communities continue to suffer. This bill will ensure that volume obligations are met whether it’s a Republican or Democrat in the White House.”
By law, the RFS requires that the EPA make adjustments when determining future biofuels targets to account for waivers to ensure that the overall biofuels targets are not reduced by waivers. However, in recent years, the agency has not accounted for these waivers, which has undercut the demand for biofuels. And under the Trump Administration, the EPA greatly expanded the number of small refinery hardship biofuel waivers that were issued, including exemptions to Exxon Mobil and Chevron. By issuing 85 waivers under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA saved the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars while threatening rural economies and harming the biofuels industry at large.
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, a strong proponent of renewable fuels, applauded the announcement.
“Representative Craig has been a great ally to farmers and the biofuels industry in Minnesota,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said. “The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association appreciates Rep. Craig’s work to close loopholes in the RFS. We applaud her work to promote biofuels, which reduce greenhouse gases and strengthen our rural economies.”
The Minnesota Biodiesel Council, which advocates for biofuels policy, said the legislation is a step in the right direction.
“The Minnesota Biodiesel Council, which represents the feedstock suppliers and biodiesel producers in Minnesota, wants to thank Rep. Angie Craig for her efforts to bring back integrity and clarity to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard program,” MBC Executive Director Mike Youngerberg said. “While we have a strong and supportive biodiesel policy in Minnesota, it needs to be backed up by good polices at the federal level, like the RFS, so we can continue to build a stronger place in our country’s energy future.”
The bipartisan bill is supported by the National Corn Growers, Growth Energy, Fuels America, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Biodiesel Board, the American Soybean Association, POET, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and other groups dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Below are statements in support of the Members’ bipartisan legislation:
“The RFS Integrity Act brings much-needed transparency to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for granting waivers to oil refiners,” said Tim Waibel, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “During the last few years, EPA granted unjustified waivers to oil refiners which decreased demand for corn used to produce clean, renewable ethanol. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association appreciates Congresswoman Angie Craig’s leadership to advance this legislation to make EPA’s waiver process timelier and more transparent while protecting the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
“Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) supports the RFS Integrity Act which will provide needed certainty and transparency in the small refinery exemption process,” said Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. “Representative Craig has been a strong supporter of biofuels during her tenure in Congress and MFBF appreciates her leadership on this issue.”
“The Renewable Fuels Standard has made biofuels a reliable market for many family farmers,” Minnesota Farmers Unions President Gary Wertish said. “Minnesota Farmers Union members were frustrated with the previous administration’s handling of small refinery exemption waivers (SREs). This bill would make it harder for future administrations to proceed with SREs and would help increase the demand for homegrown biofuels, which is good for farmers’ bottom lines and consumer prices at the pump. We thank Congresswoman Craig and Congressman Johnson for their bipartisan effort.”
“We applaud the introduction of the RFS Integrity Act and the strong bipartisan effort to restore integrity and transparency to the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “The intent of the RFS is to blend more biofuels into our nation’s transportation fuel supply every year, not have oil companies use questionable tactics to delay and avoid their blending obligations, creating a tremendous amount of uncertainty for farmers, biofuels producers, and the entire fuel supply chain. Recent research has found that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46 percent lower than gasoline. As science on biofuels continues to update and highlight the increasing environmental benefits of ethanol over gasoline, it’s critical we restore the RFS to its original intent and harness the power of biofuels to immediately address climate change concerns and decarbonize our transportation fleet. We are grateful to Rep. Craig and Rep. Johnson for their continued leadership on this issue.”
“Representative Craig and Johnson’s bill is a fundamental step to ensure biofuel-blending volumes are fully met and will provide much-needed clarity for rural America,” said Joshua Shields, senior vice president of government affairs and communications for POET. “Bioethanol producers and farmers deserve transparency in the exemption process and have a right to know the number of gallons of biofuel lost as a result of the waivers and to which companies they are granted.”