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Grassley: More Small Refinery Waivers Would Be A 'Devastating Blow' To Biofuels

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John Pemble / IPR file
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IPR

Iowa’s senior U.S. senator is warning that any more small refinery environmental exemptions granted in the final days of the Trump presidency would badly harm the biofuels industry.

The bipartisan House Biofuels Caucus wrote to President Donald Trump this week saying more small refinery exemptions will cripple rural communities. These exemptions allow oil refiners to dodge requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard to blend biofuels into gasoline. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley also opposes the exemptions.

“This would be a devastating blow to the biofuel producers and of course to my fellow farmers,” Grassley said. “At this point, however, these are just rumors, and I hope that’s how they stay.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t released an official decision. The agency has granted 85 waivers to small refineries since 2016.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week decided to take up an appeal of a 2020 decision on the Renewable Fuel Standard from a lower court. An appellate court ruled last year that the EPA overreached in granting waivers to three refineries.

“If any action is taken by [EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler] before a final decision, it would be contrary to what he told Senator Ernst and me,” Grassley said. “That said, I certainly understand farmers not trusting the EPA.”

President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated in less than a week. Grassley said he’ll continue to advocate for the ethanol industry with the new administration. More than 40,000 jobs are part of the ethanol industry in Iowa, he said.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter