Market News & Headlines >> Groups Seek Info on Retroactive RFA Exemption Requests

In a letter on Tuesday, a coalition of nine biofuel and farm industry groups requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide further information about a new effort to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFA) by granting small refinery exemptions for past compliance years. 

During a Senate hearing on May 20, EPA officials confirmed their consideration of retroactive small refinery exemptions (SREs) covering previous years. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Under Secretary Mark Menezes, on that same day, confirmed EPA was “sending over” past-year petitions for DOE review and described the petitions as “gap fillings” designed to reconstitute a continuous string of exemptions for select oil companies “to be consistent with the Tenth Circuit decision,” the groups noted. 

“These ‘gap filings’ appear to be little more than the latest in a string of oil industry tactics designed to subvert the law and sidestep a court order to uphold the RFS,” wrote Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Farmers Union, the American Coalition for Ethanol, and Fuels America. 

“This attempt to circumvent the courts and the RFS should be rejected out of hand. Even if EPA granted retroactive ‘gap’ exemptions without simultaneously returning the number of RINs associated with the exemption to the petitioner, such exemptions would be inconsistent with EPA’s own policies and regulations, legal precedent, and Congressional intent,” the groups said. 

The letter noted the biofuels industry has been hit especially hard by the sharp decline in fuel demand across the U.S. due to measures taken to control the coronavirus pandemic. “EPA inaction on court orders and prolonged SRE uncertainty continue to stifle investment in American biofuels and destabilize agricultural markets. Backfilling SREs to circumvent a court decision would exacerbate market uncertainty at a time when rural communities already face unprecedented economic challenges,” the groups said.