Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Aug. 1 the agency lacks the authority to reassign the ethanol blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard that small refiners had shed after receiving waivers from the agency, and that he could not commit to issuing a rule allowing year-round sale of the E15 blend.

“Part of the original intent in Congress was to grant waivers and there is not a provision for reallocating that,” Wheeler told Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on EPA’s agenda, according to report in Politico.

“We’re trying to be more clear and transparent on granting the refinery waivers,” he added.

On allowing year-round sales of E15, Wheeler also told Ernst, “We can certainly start that process. As you know, senator, there are certainly people who don’t believe we have that authority. There was legislation last year that would have given EPA that authority. We are looking at that issue, as we’ve discussed.”

Wheeler seemed to contradict President Donald Trump, who recently said the administration is close to allowing year-round E-15 sales.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-SD, told Wheeler to “expedite” a new rule expanding E15 sales, insisting that EPA owed it to farmers, The Hill reported.

“You’ve taken care of the small refineries. What about the small farmers?” Rounds asked.

“What about the folks who are producing on a year-to-year basis just enough to get by at a time when we’ve got trade issues in front of us, at a time when they’re expecting that the (renewable fuel standard) would be honored by the federal government that we made several years ago,” Rounds said.

Wheeler said EPA is working to improve transparency on refinery waivers and trying to determine what it can do to make up for the biofuel volume that gets waived.

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings commended Ernst, Rounds and Sens. Deb Fischer, R-NE, and Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, for “confronting Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler about the ethanol demand destruction created by an unprecedented number of small refinery exemptions and how EPA intends to reallocate the waived gallons, as well as the need to make good on the president’s repeated promises to allow E15 use year-round. This is another example of the strong bipartisan support in Congress for making sure EPA follows the law while implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“While we appreciate…Wheeler is looking into how EPA might reallocate the SREs and intends to publicize a ‘dashboard’ to provide more transparency about the circumstances around why refineries receive exemptions from RFS compliance, farmers and biofuel producers are suffering the consequences of demand destruction and collapsed RIN and commodity markets. We need reallocation sooner rather than later.

“Actions speak louder than words. The president has promised to allow E15 use year-round on multiple occasions, including the public statement in Iowa.…about being ‘very close’ to making this happen. I am disappointed Acting Administrator Wheeler said ‘some don’t think we have the authority’ to allow E15 use year-round because even former administrator Scott Pruitt admitted EPA has the legal authority when speaking with ACE members in Kansas and South Dakota in June. It is important for Acting Administrator Wheeler to make good on the president’s promises to maintain the RFS as the law of the land and allow E15 year-round.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling@hpj.com.

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