US senators seek clarity on EPA’s small refinery exemption process

Latest Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) received with mixed reactions

A group of US senators from Wyoming and eight senate Republicans have requested clarity from US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm around the process for vetting and approving the state’s small refinery exemptions (SRE) to the renewable fuel standard.

In a recent letter, signed by senators Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso as well as other senators, the officials shared their “strong concerns” regarding the Department of Energy’s role in “scoring petitions filed under the small refinery exemption program in the Renewable Fuel Standard and inquiring about the steps DOE plans to take to remedy these shortcomings.”

The letter pointed to a November 2022 report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) that examined the policies and procedures of the DOE and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the exemption decisions.

Small refinery exemption process

The EPA can grant exemptions if the refiners can prove compliance with the mandates caused financial hardship.

In early April 2022, the EPA denied 36 petitions from refiners seeking exemptions to 2018 biofuel blending laws due to financial hardship.

Meanwhile, the four refineries in the state of Wyoming operate within the parameters of the small refinery exemption.

“Despite repeated requests for the EPA to reconsider its decisions regarding small refinery exemptions to the renewable fuel standard, as well as a GAO report refuting their actions, Administrator Reagan and his staff have decided to double down on their actions against the small refineries that operate across Wyoming,” Lummis said in the letter.

In December 2021, the EPA attempted to block all pending SRE requests.

In January 2022, meanwhile, Lummis and her colleagues sent a letter to the EPA, citing concern for the new approach to SRE petitions.

Late last year, a group of US senators wrote to the EPA calling for greater renewable volume obligations (RVOs) ahead of the release of the 2023 blending targets in December, stating that previously, renewable volume obligations (RVOs), which were backed by statutory volumes, had been undermined by SREs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs), which were finally released on December 1 after being delayed several times, called for an increased overall blending mandate of 20.82 billion gallons for 2023, 21.87 billion gallons for 2024 and 22.68 billion gallons for 2025, prompting highly mixed industry reactions.

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