U.S. EPA yet to decide on retroactive refinery waiver requests: senator

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet taken action on petitions by refiners seeking retroactive biofuel blending waivers, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining issues facing prisons and jails during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

The Iowa senator called on the EPA to reject such petitions in a weekly call with reporters.

Grassley said the petitions were an attempt to skirt a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this year that said waivers from the nation’s biofuel blending laws granted to small refineries after 2010 had to take the form of an “extension.”

The decision, if applied broadly, would likely put an end to the Trump Administration’s practice of granting large numbers of exemptions to blending mandates.

However, a Department of Energy official said last month the department would review retroactive blending waivers. If granted, such waivers could be considered compliant with the court’s ruling.

His comments sparked outrage from biofuel advocates, who claim waivers undermine demand for ethanol and other biofuels. The oil industry refutes that claim.

Grassley said the petitions should be immediately dismissed, and the fact that they haven’t was a big concern of corn farmers and the industry in general. Iowa is the largest ethanol-producing state in the country.

“If the EPA ends up accepting these petitions, not only will they lose again in court, they will risk President Trump’s support in Iowa and other Midwestern states,” he said.

Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, refineries must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into their fuel pool or buy credits from those who do. Small refineries have been able to get waivers from the EPA, after their applications are reviewed by the Department of Energy.

The 10th circuit court’s decision made it unclear whether the large number of waivers issued in recent years could go ahead.

“Small refinery petitions received are sent to DOE for further analysis and we will await their recommendations,” an EPA spokesperson said.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Bernadette Baum