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White House Looks to Pare Biofuel Waivers for Refineries on Court Ruling
USAgNet - 02/28/2020

Trump administration officials have decided to pare the number of oil refineries granted waivers from biofuel mandates, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg News reports that the decision in response to a January court ruling represents a win for biofuel producers who have battled the exemptions and accused the Trump administration of siding with the oil industry on the issue.

The terrain is politically fraught for President Donald Trump, dividing two of his key political constituencies: agriculture and the oil industry. Trump promised to support corn-based ethanol while campaigning in Iowa four years ago but also has cultivated support among Rust Belt voters and the oil industry that oppose the biofuel mandate.

An Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman declined to comment, though EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told reporters on the sidelines of an agriculture conference on Wednesday that the agency would "hopefully have an announcement shortly."

"We are still trying to figure out the implications" of the court ruling, Wheeler said.

A three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the EPA wrongly waived three refineries from requirements to use plant-based fuels.

In their ruling, the judges said the federal law mandating biofuel limits waivers to situations involving "extensions" and pointed out that none of the three refineries at issue had "consistently received an exemption" in previous years.

In response, administration officials have decided to apply the ruling nationwide and propose a new slate of biofuel quotas for 2020, according to the people who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That approach means that only a handful of oil refineries -- those that have consistently won exemptions since 2008 -- likely will qualify for the waivers going forward, down from dozens in recent years.

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