ST. PAUL — In response to a proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Governor Tim Walz and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem issued a joint letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the agency to honor President Donald Trump’s commitment to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Last month, President Trump directed the EPA to restore the biofuels lost when EPA granted excessive small refinery waivers. In the past three years, the EPA has issued 85 small refinery exemptions, representing a loss of over 4.3 billion gallons of biofuels.
The President ordered EPA to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard that requires 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply, beginning in 2020. The President also directed EPA and USDA to take steps to address barriers to the use of E15 and to expand ethanol’s infrastructure.
Biofuel and agriculture representatives praised the President’s agreement but pointed out that EPA must follow through with a proposed rule that accurately implements the agreement. President Trump also praised the agreement, saying, “We’ve come to an agreement and it’s going to be … getting close to 16 billion [gallons].”
However, the EPA issued a proposed rule that would use a three-year average of the Department of Energy’s recommendations for exempted volumes, rather than the actual gallons waived by EPA. As the EPA’s exemptions have been roughly double the DOE recommended amount, finalizing this rule would make it unlikely that the EPA would meet a blending requirement of 15 billion gallons.
In their comments to Administrator Wheeler, Governor Walz and Governor Noem said the proposed rule “… demonstrates that EPA is oblivious to the harm it has caused” and is ignoring the agreement President Trump reached with the nation’s biofuels community.
“EPA chose to approve these waivers at a time when farmers and biofuel producers were already hurt by adverse weather conditions, flagging export market opportunities, and chronically low commodity prices. Approving these waivers when the agriculture economy was struggling represented a callous disregard for the economic interest our nation’s farmers.” The governors pointed out that at least 30 plants remain closed and that the rule will not allow those facilities to open and “put people back to work.”
The governors urged Administrator Wheeler to use a three-year rolling average of actual exempted gallons as the basis to estimate 2020 exempted volumes. “This approach would ensure the 15 billion gallon requirement is actually enforced and truly results in actual blending of at least 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuel,” the governors said.
— Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan
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