Sen. Smith: EPA refinery exemptions would hurt MN farmers, rural communities

U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) criticized the Trump administration’s plan to  name which U.S. oil refineries are allowed to avoid requirements to blend renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply, saying it could ultimately contribute to job losses across rural America and strike a blow to the nation’s already struggling farm economy.

In a press release, Sen. Smith said hiding the identity of refineries that receive special Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waivers to the nation’s biofuels laws will help big oil companies at the expense of the nation’s renewable industry. The waivers cut the amount of corn-based ethanol and other renewables that is blended into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply, reducing demand for agriculture products at a time when farmers have already been hit hard by low farm prices and trade disruptions.

“The EPA promised to increase transparency and publish the names of refineries that get exemptions from our nation’s renewable fuels laws. Now it’s abandoning that promise,” Smith said. “The transparency is necessary because last year EPA granted a ‘financial hardship’ waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, saving him tens of millions of dollars. Such waivers have also gone to refineries owned by profitable oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron. In 2018, the waivers cut demand for ethanol by more than a billion gallons, according to the Minnesota Biofuels Association. That’s just wrong and it’s hurting Minnesota’s economy.”

Sen. Smith said the EPA’s plan to be more transparent was eliminated after the White House and the oil industry pushed to end it. She said she also remains skeptical of a reported White House-brokered “compromise plan” between the oil industry and corn industry.

“I’ll be watching to ensure that any compromise coming out of the administration does not further hurt Minnesota’s ethanol and renewable fuels industry,” she said.

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