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EPA's Granting Of 31 Hardship Waivers Leaves Sen. Grassley Skeptical

Amy Mayer
IPR file
A longtime supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard, Sen. Chuck Grassley atteneded the 2013 rally in Nevada that featured this sign.

Iowa’s senior senator has some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency following its decision to release more than two dozen small oil refineries from their obligations to blend ethanol into gasoline.

On Friday, EPA granted 31 so-called “hardship” waivers, a decision that was followed Monday with a U.S. Department of Agriculture prediction that demand for corn would fall because of less ethanol production. The double-whammy for corn farmers had Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, whose family grows corn and soybeans, doubting the justification for all the waivers.

“Seems to me the bottom line is that EPA is undermining the congressional intent in the (Renewable Fuel Standard),” Grassley said, “and it’s surely hurting farmers in Iowa and rural America.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard is the federal law that sets requirements for how much ethanol gets into the nation’s fuel supply. Oil refineries are obligated to blend ethanol according to those requirements. But the Trump administration has been generous with waivers that exempt small oil refineries from putting ethanol in their products. In past years, some of the world’s biggest oil companies have benefitted from the program.

Grassley says he’s skeptical all the companies getting waivers really need them.

“We need to get as much information and find out how much of a hardship this stuff is,” he said, “and we need transparency of the rationale for these waivers.”

Companies that get public dollars should not be allowed to hide behind claims of proprietary information, Grassley said, and the public should be able see the details EPA used in granting the waivers.

Grassley added he was “shocked” to see that EPA did deny some of the requested waivers, but not enough to quell his skepticism.

The National Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and other corn and biofuels groups joined Grassley in a chorus of frustration over the EPA waivers.

Follow Amy on Twitter: @AgAmyinAmes

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames