The Nebraska Farm Bureau is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep its promise as it relates to protecting the integrity of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The RFS program was established by Congress in 2005 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector to reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil. The boost to renewable fuels, farmers, and the renewable fuels sector from the RFS has been a tremendous success for the country and the rural economy, yet in recent years, the EPA has significantly expanded the amount of biofuel blend waivers issued to small oil refineries, undercutting the integrity of the RFS and significantly lowering the amount of biofuels blended into the U.S. fuel supply. The actions have subsequently diminished demand for corn and ethanol, contributing to the slowed agriculture economy.
“The amount of small refinery exemptions issued by EPA has skyrocketed since 2016, with EPA most recently announcing 31 waivers for the 2018 RFS compliance year alone. During that span, EPA exempted more than 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel obligations to the detriment of our farmers, renewable fuels partners, and consumers looking for a more affordable and environmentally friendly fuel alternative,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president. “In October, EPA and the administration promised they would work to address the situation regarding the issuance of small oil refinery exemptions, yet EPA’s official proposal to remedy the situation falls short of what was promised.”
The EPA’s pending proposal does not change the proposed RFS blend volumes for 2020 or 2021, but instead proposes adjustments to the way annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated. EPA and the administration’s initial announcement hinted the agency would project the volume of gasoline and diesel that would be exempt in 2020 from small refinery exemptions based on a three-year rolling average of exemptions. While the three-year average would not totally reallocate lost gallons, it was viewed by Farm Bureau and many biofuel supporters as a step in the right direction. However, the actual EPA proposal is substantially different than what was promised, with the proposal designating the three-year rolling average be based on relief recommended by the Department of Energy, not on actual exemptions granted.
“This is a major point of contention, as there is often a disconnect between how many gallons are recommended by the Department of Energy to exempt through full or partial exemptions and what the actual exemptions end up being. Rather than simply making good on promises made by the president and the EPA that the RFS target of 15 billion gallons be met, it appears the EPA moved the goal post again, with this proposal leading the RFS to backslide to just 14.4 billion gallons of biofuel in 2020,” said Nelson. “To ensure accurate accounting for the waivers in 2020 and beyond, and to keep the promise, EPA must use the rolling average of actual exemption volumes from the three most recently completed compliance years.”
In pushing EPA to meet its promise, the organization thanked the agency and the administration for its work to make E-15 fuel available year-round.
“We recognize and appreciate the work of the agency and administration on biofuels in other areas, but this proposal fails to account for the real harm caused by the EPA from the excessive use of small refinery waivers. Expansion of markets for renewable fuels is a Nebraska Farm Bureau policy priority and critical to both farmers and consumers. It’s imperative EPA respect the original intent of Congress and provide certainty to the renewable fuels marketplace,” said Nelson.
EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal through November 29. Those looking to comment on EPA’s proposal can do so by visiting www.nefb.org and clicking the “Take Action” button.