Rep. Finkenauer Leads Bipartisan Call for Investigation into Small Refinery Exemption Waivers

August 21, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) sent a bipartisan letter to the Government Accountability Office formally calling for an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency’s granting of small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Our concerns stem from the economic consequences to our rural communities created by exempting nearly 4 billion gallons of fuel from the RFS, a standard intended to expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector,” Congresswoman Finkenauer and the representatives wrote, “By 2016, the ethanol industry has grown to support over 339,000 U.S. jobs and driven $41 billion in economic activity by supporting corn and soy markets and reducing gasoline prices.”

President of the American Soybean Association, Davie Stephens, said, “The American Soybean Association appreciates Representative Finkenauer’s leadership and efforts to scrutinize the large number of RFS exemptions being granted by EPA. ASA is very supportive of Rep. Finkenauer’s request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze the EPA’s refinery exemption approval process and the impacts the waivers are having on the U.S. biodiesel industry.”

Congresswoman Finkenauer and the representatives are asking for the GAO to investigate:

        · The Environmental Protection Agency’s approval process for small refinery exemption waivers;

        · The role of the Department of Energy in reviewing and scoring waiver applications;

        · What factors are being considering in the assessment and approval of these applications and whether changes have been made to the review process under the current Administration;

Last week, the EPA announced it granted 31 new small refinery exemption waivers. Under the Trump administration, small refinery exemption waivers have more than quadrupled from the previous administration.

Between 2013 and 2015, the EPA granted no more than 8 waivers for any given year. The current Administration retroactively approved 19 waivers for 2016, then proceeded to grant 35 waivers in 2017, and now 31 waivers for 2018—exempting a total of nearly 4 billion gallons of fuel from the RFS. The number of waivers approved has grown exponentially with major corporations like ExxonMobil and Chevron among those that received these economic hardship exemptions. This raises real questions about the review process and what other factors that the EPA is considering in approving the waivers.

After sending the letter Congresswoman Finkenauer said, “Undercutting the Renewable Fuel Standard has a broad and painful impact on folks in Iowa’s First Congressional District. The renewable fuels industry and our farmers have fought hard for a seat at the table and President Trump looked Iowans in the eye and promised he’d listen, but actions speak so much louder than words. That’s why I’m standing up and fighting to get to the bottom of why Iowans and renewable fuels are once again on the losing end of this secretive process at the EPA. It’s not the way Washington should work and Iowa deserves answers and action.”

Congresswoman Finkenauer was joined in sending the letter to GAO by members of the House Biofuels Caucus, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS), Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Congressman Mike Bost (R-IL), Congresswoman Cindy Axne (D-IA), Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE), Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-SD). Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) also signed the letter.

A copy of the letter can be found here.