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Grassley Gets Clarification On Small Refinery Exemptions From Energy Secretary

Amy Mayer
IPR file photo
An image from the 2019 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit imagines a future in which four levels of ethanol blends are available for gasoline.

Iowa’s senior senator met with the U.S. secretary of energy this week to better understand details around how small oil refineries secure waivers exempting them from the national biofuels law.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Rick Perry clarified for him that the Department of Energy can offer input, but it’s the Environmental Protection Agency that grants the waivers. Grassley said E.P.A. Administrator Andrew Wheeler is not obligated to do what the energy department recommends.

“Wheeler always talks like he has to, so I’m glad we could make that very clear, that the law doesn’t require Wheeler to do it,” Grassley told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “And I hope Wheeler will be more careful in granting these waivers.”

Grassley said the waivers approved last year meant a billion bushels of corn didn’t get made into ethanol and he wants to see fewer waivers issued this year.

“I want Wheeler to make sure that President Trump is the ethanol president that he brags about (being), and in the process help Midwestern farmers,” Grassley said.

President Donald Trump declared his support for ethanol while campaigning in Iowa, but as president some have felt his commitment has faltered, in part because of the number of these waivers and the fact that some have gone to affiliates of  large oil companies.

In 2017 the Trump administration issued five times as many waivers as were issued in 2015.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames