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POET to idle Indiana ethanol plant, citing federal-mandate waivers

Houston — POET said Tuesday it will idle its Cloverdale, Indiana, ethanol plant, saying recent decisions by the US Environmental Protection Agency have harmed the domestic biofuels industry.

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The plant has an annual production capacity of 92 million gallons.

The company in its statement also said it was reducing ethanol production at half of its 28 ethanol plants and will consolidate "numerous" jobs.

"POET made strategic decisions to support President Trump's goal of boosting the farm economy," POET President and Chief Operation Officer Jeff Lautt said. "However, these goals are contradicted by bailout to oil companies. The result is pain for Midwest farmers and the reduction of hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity across Indiana."

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently granted 31 waivers to small refineries that exempt them from complying with federal renewable fuel blending obligations for 2018. Under federal regulations, any refinery with a capacity of 75,000 b/d can be granted a waiver if it can prove that complying with the requirements would impose an economic hardship.

The waiver program has been a key front in the ongoing political battle between the domestic biofuel industry and the oil refining industry. Biofuel interests argue that the waivers undermine the federal government's program to build up its domestic biofuel industry by eliminating demand. Refining interests say the waivers have no impact on biofuel demand.

Biofuel companies and their supporters saw the EPA's issuance of the waivers as a sign that US President Donald Trump was turning his back on the industry.

POET purchased the Cloverdale ethanol plant from Altra Biofuels in 2010. The plant has a annual production capacity of 92 million gallons. The company has ethanol plants in seven states.

-- Wesley Swift, wesley.swift@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com