WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the bipartisan RFS Integrity Act of 2021. This legislation would provide more certainty for rural America by bringing transparency and predictability to EPA’s small refinery exemption process. The bill would require small refineries to petition for Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hardship exemptions by June 1st of each year. This change would ensure that EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) it sets each November.
“The EPA’s very opaque small refinery exemption process is unfair to hardworking farmers and ethanol producers across rural America. By ensuring the EPA accounts for exempted gallons in the annual RVO process, my bipartisan bill will uphold the integrity of the RFS and bring much needed transparency to this exemption process,” said Senator Fischer.
“Farmers across Illinois and throughout the Midwest are hurting and ethanol plants are idling as a result of years of misuse of the small refinery exemption program that undermined the intent of the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard. I am proud to work with Senator Fischer to introduce this bipartisan legislation to bring much-needed transparency to the waiver process and prevent it from being misused to benefit billion dollar oil companies at the expense of hardworking Americans again,”said Senator Duckworth.
Support for the RFS Integrity Act of 2021:
“The RFS has positively linked soybean production to energy markets, allowing farmers to contribute to a cleaner fuel system and climate-friendly solutions. We have embraced this opportunity, so it is disheartening when small refinery exemption waivers are granted without transparency. It creates uncertainty in biodiesel markets and harms soybean farmers aiming to help. A strong RFS adds value to soybeans while also creating jobs, diversifying our fuel supply, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We applaud Senators Duckworth and Fischer on introducing the RFS Integrity Act, which will add much-needed transparency to the small refinery exemption waiver process at the EPA,” said Kevin Scott, President of the American Soybean Association.
“This is a commonsense and timely step to ensure that RFS biomass-based diesel volumes – once set -- provide certainty for all stakeholders and are fully met. Right now, EPA is considering 70 exemption petitions from refiners seeking to undermine the integrity of the RFS. We thank Senators Fischer and Duckworth for their leadership in optimizing the RFS to achieve the nation’s goals for clean, homegrown energy,” said Kurt Kovarik, Vice President of Federal Affairs of the National Biodiesel Board.
“This important legislation would ensure that the RFS is implemented as congress intended, and that 15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons. In addition to ensuring the annual renewable volume obligations have teeth, it would provide much-needed transparency into the historically opaque process of evaluating Small Refinery Exemption petitions,” said Omaha-based Green Plains Inc.
“This legislation provides long-overdue transparency for requests to avoid blending more low carbon renewable fuels that are key to America’s low-carbon future. We applaud Senators Fischer and Duckworth for working to protect the integrity of the RFS so that farmers and biofuel producers, as well as the entire fuel supply chain, across the nation can count on stable demand and continue providing cleaner and more affordable fuel choices at the pump,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.
“Given the accomplishments of the RFS program to date, EPA’s previous excessive and unreasonable use of the small refinery waiver dampened the prospects for reduced emissions and increased energy security. The Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act ensures transparency through a fair and timely EPA waiver process going forward,” said Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation.
“The EPA’s abuse of small refinery waivers not only undermined the Renewable Fuel Standard but also impacted corn demand. NCGA appreciates Senators Fischer and Duckworth introducing the RFS Integrity Act. Bringing transparency to the waiver process and establishing clear deadlines for refineries to apply for waivers will allow the EPA to avoid retroactive waivers and ensure the RFS is properly administered. Corn growers appreciate new EPA Administrator Regan’s actions to date to change course on RFS waivers, and the RFS Integrity Act would support those efforts and prevent future waiver abuse,” said John Linder, President of National Corn Growers Association.
“The Renewable Fuels Association thanks Senators Fischer and Duckworth for their bipartisan leadership and determined efforts to bring more transparency and certainty to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The previous administration’s reckless abuse of the small refinery exemption program resulted in countless lost opportunities for ethanol producers, farmers, and consumers alike. While we remain hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon put this issue behind us once and for all by affirming the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision in RFA et al. v. EPA, introduction of the RFS Integrity Act marks an important step forward toward getting the program back on track,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper.
This legislation fixes the unnecessarily complex “rolling deadline” by setting a deadline for refineries to apply for an SRE by June 1 in the year before the RVO is in effect, giving EPA sufficient time to ensure exemptions are accounted for in the annual RVO process. It further requires the EPA to publish the name of the refinery and how many gallons are exempted on their dashboard at the same time the refiner is notified that they received an exemption.
Senator Fischer has taken a leading role in pushing for more transparency in the SRE process. Last year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down three small refinery exemptions that were deemed improperly issued by the EPA. The court ruling stems from a May 2018 challenge brought against EPA by the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union. The court ruled that the RFS statute only allows agencies to grant extensions for continuously extended exemptions that have been in effect since 2011, which was not the case for these three exemptions. In February, President Biden’s EPA announced its support for the 10th Circuit’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court took up this case and heard oral arguments this spring.
Last spring, Senator Fischer led 16 of her Midwest colleagues in writing a letter to President Trump which encouraged EPA to not appeal the 10th Circuit Court decision, and the EPA agreed. Read the full text of the letter here.