EPA Denies Gap Year RFS Waiver Requests

Ethanol Blender Pump ( South Dakota Corn )

Applications for oil refiners to be exempted from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) have been a contentious election for President Donald Trump in Iowa. His administration took a step to alleviate those political pressures Monday by denying so-called “gap year” waiver requests.

The 10th Circuit Court ruled that the requests, or small refinery exemptions, could only serve as extensions of previous requests dating back to 2011, not new requests. Consequently, refiners filed 68 new petitions for RFS waivers to fill those gap years where they did not seek exemptions.

EPA’s order says any application where the Department of Energy (DOE) determined a refiner should receive no relief or 50% relief would be denied. According to industry association Growth Energy, the denial covers 54 gap year waiver requests where the DOE had rendered an opinion. There are 14 additional gap year requests still awaiting a DOE evaluation.

“Today’s action lifts a cloud of uncertainty that has been hanging over America’s farmers and biofuel producers since June,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We’re grateful to farm state champions like Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who has led a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate and governors across the heartland in speaking out against oil-backed efforts to dodge the law, circumvent the courts, and upend markets.”

“We are pleased to see EPA is officially denying 54 so-called ‘gap-year’ small refinery exemption petitions, and we look forward to EPA similarly denying the remaining 14 petitions once they are received from DOE," added Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Goeff Cooper. "Rejecting the petitions is simply the right thing to do, and today’s decision marks a big step forward toward fully restoring integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard. This should serve as the final nail in the coffin of these gap-year petitions, and we are eager to put this dark and sordid chapter in the history of the RFS behind us once and for all."

The EPA ruling comes two days after President Trump tweeted that the federal government will allow 15% blends of ethanol fuel to be pumped in existing infrastructure designed for E10.

“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a press release announcing the waiver denials. “At the EPA, we are delivering on that promise by following the rule-of-law and ensuring 15 billion gallons are blended into the nation’s fuel supply.”