July 29, 2019 / 4:26 PM / 23 days ago

U.S. EPA set to rule on refinery biofuel waivers requests in coming weeks

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen

TRAINER, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency hopes to rule in the next few weeks on 2018 petitions to obtain small refinery waivers from the nation’s biofuel laws, administrator Andrew Wheeler said on Monday.

“We’re going through them,” Wheeler told reporters on the sidelines of his visit to Monroe Energy’s oil refinery in Trainer. “We hope to be processing them and making decisions in the next few weeks and month at the most,” he said.

The program allows small refiners in financial turmoil to seek waivers from regulations requiring them to blend ethanol into gasoline. Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the EPA has more than quadrupled the number of waivers granted to refiners, saving the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars, but enraging corn growers, another key constituency of Trump supporters, who claim the move threatens ethanol demand.

The waiver program has been a bone of contention between the rival corn and oil industries since Trump ordered a review of it after hearing complaints from farmers.

Sources among refiners and biofuel producers have told Reuters in recent weeks that 2018 waiver decisions were nearly finalized before Trump intervened and demanded a review. Since then, EPA, along with Department of Agriculture have been scrambling to come up with a solution.

The Department of Energy provided the EPA its scoring results for the 40 outstanding 2018 applications in late April, sources told Reuters.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, a more than decade-old regulation that is aimed at helping farmers and reducing U.S. dependence on oil. Since he took office, Trump has struggled to find a balance between oil refiners and corn growers as he eyes a bid for re-election next year.

Reporting by Laila Kearney in Trainer, Pennsylvania; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio

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