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Trump administration continues to deal with backlash after granting Small Refinery Exemptions

Compiled by staff

September 5, 2019

3 Min Read

The governors of Minnesota and South Dakota are calling on the Trump administration to do more to support farmers and renewable fuel producers. Gov. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., are the chair and vice chair of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition.

“The recent approval of 31 additional small refinery waivers undermines the integrity of the RFS and harms our states’ agricultural communities, which have already been affected by the administration’s tariffs,” the governors said in a joint media statement. “Since 2016, your administration has issued 85 exemptions, representing a loss of over 4.3 billion gallons of ethanol.  We are hearing from farmers and renewable fuel producers that the waivers are the reason an increasing number of renewable fuel plants are closing or idling production.”

The governors suggested the president take the following action:

  • Request that EPA add the lost gallons to the pending 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations proposed rule.

  • Initiate another Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership program through USDA so states and private partners can match more federal funds and improve consumer access to renewable fuels.

  • Increase the minimum octane standard in gasoline to create an immediate market for more ethanol and eliminate the need to import octane.

  • Direct EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act requirement to replace the aromatic toxics in gasoline, which would allow refiners to use ethanol — a less expensive source of octane.

Renewable fuel supporters have rallied to support ethanol after the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency granted 31 Small Refinery Exemptions, or waivers, for the RFS on Aug. 9.

President Trump wasn’t prepared for the outcry and suggested rescinding some of the waivers. Instead, administration officials offered other ideas to mitigate the political impact of the waivers.

The waivers proved the last straw for some ethanol plants, with Poet idling production at its bioprocessing plant in Cloverdale, Indiana, due to the Small Refinery Exemptions. Poet has reduced production at half of its biorefineries.

In Minnesota, Corn Plus, one of the state’s oldest ethanol plants, announced it was closing, the Mankato Free Press reported. The Winnebago plant was among the town’s largest employers. Archer Daniels Midland, the second biggest ethanol producer, is trying to sell its ethanol business.

Later in August, the Trump administration announced plans to give a 500-million-gallon boost to the amount of ethanol that must be used in 2020. The biofuel quota will rise by 250 million gallons under the Trump plan.

Amid the controversy, more than 5,600 comments were filed on the Renewable Fuel Standard renewable volume obligations rulemaking, which closed Aug. 30, according to Ethanol Producer magazine.

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