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US EPA denies 17 small refineries waivers to 2011-18 biofuel mandates

Highlights

EPA's Wheeler says refiners did not demonstrate hardship

Trump tweets about using E10 fuel pumps for E15

Washington — Prices for Renewable Identification Numbers rose slightly after the US Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 14 denied 17 small oil refiners' requests to waive the federal biofuel blending mandate retroactively for the 2011-18 compliance years.

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It is the latest move by the Trump administration to respond to complaints by the biofuel industry and farm-state senators that the EPA has given too much leeway to oil refiners under the Renewable Fuel Standard. While it could help President Donald Trump's election chances in farm states like Iowa, it could cost him votes in refining states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

D6 ethanol RINs for 2020 compliance were trading around 50.5 cents/RIN mid-day Sept. 14, up about 2.5 cents from the Sept. 11 assessment.

D4 biodiesel RINs were around 76.75 cents/RIN, about 1 cent/RIN higher than the last assessment.

RINs are tradable credits EPA issues to track production and use of alternative transportation fuels. For corn-based ethanol, one gallon of ethanol yields one RIN.

Also in a nod to biofuel supporters, Trump on Sept. 12 tweeted that the EPA would allow fuel stations to use E10 gasoline pumps to dispense E15, or gasoline blended with 15% ethanol. He added that it would be "subject only to state approval."

NO HARDSHIP FOUND

In a letter denying the small-refinery waivers, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said the refineries had not provided any new information that would require the EPA to change its previous decisions for past RFS compliance years.

"These small refineries did not demonstrate then or now that they experienced disproportionate economic hardship from compliance with the RFS program and do not warrant an exemption for those RFS compliance years," Wheeler said in the letter.

The biofuel mandate allows refineries that process less than 75,000 b/d of crude to petition for an exemption, which gets reviewed by the Department of Energy and the EPA.

EPA's handling of the waivers has been at the center of the ongoing fight between biofuel makers and oil refiners.

A January court decision signaled the EPA would need to grant fewer exemptions, but refineries that received an exemption in the past could continue to receive exemptions in the future in the form of an extension. That led small refineries that had not received a small refinery exemption to apply for all possible years to potentially be grandfathered into future exemptions.

The biofuel industry hailed the decision from the court to limit the agency's ability to grant the exemptions, but oil interests have supported retroactive exemptions as a way to remain eligible for future waivers.