32 House members urge Trump to reject gap year SREs

A bipartisan group of 32 members of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 2 sent a letter to President Trump calling on his administration to deny the 52 gap year small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions that have been filed by oil companies in an effort to circumvent the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Jan. 24 ruling.

As part of that ruling, the court determined that the EPA cannot extend exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard to any small refinery whose earlier, temporary exemptions had lapsed. Wynnewood Refining and HollyFrontier challenged the ruling in March by seeking a rehearing en banc. The court, however, rejected those petitions on April 7. The EPA has not yet announced how it plans to implement the court’s ruling.

“We are concerned that these ‘gap year’ waivers are an attempt to circumvent the Court’s ruling at the expense of the biofuel producers, farmers, and rural communities we represent,” the members of Congress wrote. “As you know, the RFS provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across rural America, supports corn and soybean markets, and lowers fuel prices. These “gap year” SRE requests jeopardize the integrity of the RFS and, if granted, will devastate our rural economies.

“We respectfully request that you ensure the EPA immediately deny these 52 ‘gap year refinery exemptions as they are inconsistent with the Tenth Circuit Court ruling, and Congressional intent of the RFS. Petitioning for retroactive exemptions undermines the Court’s decision, and the legal obligation that petitions be filed ‘in a timely manner.’ Considering this ruling, there is no reasonable scenario in which an existing refinery can claim it is entitled to an exemption that it did not previously seek or receive,” they continued.

The letter notes that, if approved, the 52 gap year SRE petitions would equate to 2 billion gallons of lost biofuel demand. “Setting this dangerous precedent would ultimately devastate the rural economy,”the members of Congress wrote. “Additionally, the EPA has 80 pending SREs in total which must be considered in a manner that is consistent with the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision.”

The letter is signed by Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn.; Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa; Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; Cindy Axne, D-Iowa; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Steve King, R-Iowa; James Comer, R-Ky.; Jacki Walorski, R-Ind.; Steve Watkins, R-Kan.; James Baird, R-Ind.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Rick Crawford, R-Ark.; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Ron Estes, R-Kan.; Mike Kelly, R-Pa.; Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.; and David Cicilline, D-R.I.

The Renewable Fuels Association has spoken out to thank the 32 members of Congress for calling on Trump to reject gap year SREs. “The Trump Administration has now heard from Members of the House, Senators and Governors on this important issue for rural America,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “Even the Environmental Protection Agency itself has noted there are significant ‘issues’ with these waivers, and we urge a speedy denial of these attempts by the oil industry to circumvent federal law and the recent court decision limiting waivers to extensions of ones previously received.”

Growth Energy also welcomed the letter. “Rural communities are done playing regulatory games with the oil industry,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We’ve seen too many plants shut down, too many jobs lost, and too many farmers deprived of vital markets at a time when we should be rebuilding the agricultural supply chain. These gap-year exemption requests are a brazen attempt to circumvent a court decision restoring integrity to the nation’s biofuel blending targets. They should be rejected without delay. We’re deeply grateful to our House champions who are rallying alongside governors and Senate leaders to demand this administration to do the right thing.”

By Erin Voegele | July 02, 2020

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