Hardship waivers undermine the original intent of the RFS, holding back homegrown biofuels while creating a windfall profits for large oil refiners

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) released the following statement after receiving a response from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to a bipartisan letter she led in April with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to cease issuing so-called “hardship” waivers exempting obligated parties from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the letter, the senators also requested that the EPA provide topline information about the waivers already issued, share whether or not the agency redistributed the waived volume obligations among the non-exempted obligated parties and outline the agency’s plan to make the waiver process more transparent. In their response, the EPA disclosed that they had granted 48 of the 53 waiver petitions submitted in 2016 and 2017.

"The EPA's admission that the agency granted all but five requested small refiners waivers for 2016 and 2017 compliance years confirms our worst suspicions—that the Administration was green lighting waivers with abandon, undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard and the commitment made to Minnesota farmers,” Senator Klobuchar said. “Senator Grassley and I have been working together for years to strengthen the RFS, support American jobs, decrease dependence on foreign oil, and invest in cleaner energy. We are committed to ending the abuse of these waivers which continue to undermine the original intent of the RFS.”

“The idea that disclosing to Congress the names of waiver recipients somehow reveals confidential business information doesn’t make any sense and isn’t acceptable. Providing Congress with the names of recipients wouldn’t reveal any details about their operations or finances. It’s a necessary first step to making sure the law is being followed. We already know many of the companies that have received so-called hardship waivers through news reports, likely because many of the companies have a financial interest in making that information public or have an obligation to their shareholders to do so. I appreciate finally receiving a response within days of acting Administrator Wheeler taking the reins at EPA, but this non-answer is disappointing,” Grassley said.

“EPA’s acknowledgment that only one waiver applicant has been denied in the past couple years raises questions about the legitimacy of the process. The agency seems to be using a rubber stamp to help Big Oil skirt the law. EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard law isn’t above congressional oversight. No government agency and no law is. I plan on discussing this issue soon with acting Administrator Wheeler, and I hope EPA is more forthcoming under his leadership than his predecessor’s,” he continued.

Klobuchar and Grassley were joined in their April letter by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Debbie Stabenow (R-MI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Thune (R-SD),  Roy Blunt (R-MO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

For years, Klobuchar has led a bipartisan push for the EPA to release a stronger RFS. In 2016, the Administration released a stronger final rule for 2017. The new standard required a record amount of biofuel to be mixed into our transportation fuel supply next year. Minnesota’s twenty ethanol plants and three biodiesel plants generate roughly $5 billion in combined economic output and have made our state the fourth-largest ethanol producing state in the country.

In October of 2017, Klobuchar and Grassley led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to the EPA calling for a strong RFS as the Agency worked toward finalizing its rule on biofuels volume requirements for 2018 under the RFS. In the letter, the senators urged the continued implementation of the RFS as intended by Congress and the release of a strong final rule that would give consumers more choices at the pump, strengthen the economy, and make the country more secure.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a 2014 Farm Bill Conference Committee member, Klobuchar successfully pushed for key provisions in the current Farm Bill – including measures to support rural development projects, conservation programs, agricultural research, and the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program. Recently, her staff held public forums throughout the state to hear firsthand from Minnesotans about their priorities for the Farm Bill’s 2018 reauthorization. Klobuchar regularly does Rural Economy Tours across Minnesota, meeting with local leaders from the agriculture and business communities to discuss priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill and the economic impact of a stronger RFS.