Pruitt And Perry Butt Heads Over ‘Hardship’ Waivers For Costly Biofuel Regs

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has disregarded some Department of Energy (DOE) recommendations regarding hardship waivers for refineries.

The EPA under administrator Scott Pruitt has stepped up exemptions for refineries following biofuel blending mandates such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates biofuels make up a certain percentage of a refinery’s petroleum product, Reuters reported Tuesday.

So far, Pruitt has issued more than two dozen hardship waivers, about triple that of previous administrations, to small refineries that produce less than 75,000 barrels of gas annually. The RFS can be particularly burdensome on small refineries, costing companies hundreds of millions of dollars a year in compliance. (RELATED: Media Ignore Inconvenient Fact In Report Targeting Pro-Trump Financial Investor)

The EPA works with the DOE to issue waivers, taking suggestions from the DOE into account before taking action. Pruitt has consistently granted full waivers for refineries that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recommended partial waivers for. In one instance, the EPA granted a full waiver to a refinery the DOE recommended be fully rejected, sources told Reuters.

The EPA waivers have placed Pruitt in the crosshairs of the corn lobby, which advocates heavily for the RFS and the corn-based biofuel ethanol. The National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association, National Farmers Union and American Coalition for Ethanol formed a coalition to sue the EPA May 29 over Pruitt’s relatively liberal use of hardship waivers. (RELATED: Big Corn Sues EPA For Exempting Refineries From Buying Ethanol)

Iowa politicians have grown increasingly frustrated by the waivers they see as a deliberate attempt to undermine the RFS. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa threatened to call for Pruitt’s resignation over the issue, claiming Pruitt’s actions were hurting corn farmers. (RELATED: Chuck Grassley Threatens To Call For Scott Pruitt To Resign Over Biofuels)

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry group, has come to Pruitt’s defense, calling the RFS an outdated program that should be repealed or at least significantly reformed.

“The RFS is a backward-looking policy that doesn’t reflect today’s energy market realities of strong domestic energy production,” API downstream group director Frank Macchiarola said in a statement Tuesday. “Furthermore, by increasing biomass-diesel and the overall biofuels volumes the government is putting its thumb on the scale, picking winners and losers.”

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