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Administration Temporarily Halts EPA Biofuel Waiver Program
USAgNet - 11/29/2018

The Trump Administration has temporarily frozen a program meant to exempt small oil refineries in financial distress from the U.S. biofuels law, as it reviews the scoring system to evaluate applications.

According to Reuters, the review means changes are likely to the program, which has become a lightning rod of controversy between the rival oil and corn industries since the Environmental Protection Agency vastly increased the number of waivers for last year.

Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, oil refiners must increasingly blend biofuels like corn-based ethanol into their fuel each year or purchase blending credits from those that do. The regulation was passed in 2005 to help farmers and cut fuel imports.

But small oil refineries can be exempted from the standard if they prove that compliance would cause disproportionate hardship. The EPA granted 29 such waivers for the 2017 compliance year, up from 14 in 2015 and 20 in 2016.

The biofuels industry and lawmakers representing farm states want the program halted, saying the expansion hurt farmers by eroding demand for ethanol. But refiners consider the program a lifeline to small facilities and have won lawsuits accusing the EPA of being too stingy with waivers, reports Reuters.

The two sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said over the past week that the Trump administration was delaying consideration of any new waivers while the Department of Energy reviews its scoring system for applications. The department evaluates waiver requests and provides recommendations to the EPA.

That has placed on hold seven applications for the 2017 compliance year, and 15 applications for the 2018. Typically, the EPA waits until the latter half of the year to begin reviewing applications because applicants need to demonstrate financial hardship using hard figures for their facilities.

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