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Following SCOTUS Decision, Feenstra Introduces Bipartisan Bill Clarifying Oil Refinery Exemptions

July 2, 2021

“We must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts”

WASHINGTON -- Today, Rep. Randy Feenstra (IA-04) joined Rep. Angie Craig (MN-02) to introduce the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. This bipartisan proposal clarifies the definition of “extension” in response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that favored oil refineries over biofuel producers.

The court’s decision would continue to allow refineries to petition for “extensions” of small refinery exemptions (SREs), even if they have not received exemptions in the past -- contrary to the original congressional intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This would leave the door open for SREs to continue being abused.

“The biofuels industry is an important driver of economic growth in Iowa, supporting hundreds of jobs and expanding market options for our corn and soybean growers. That is why we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels. I would like to thank Rep. Craig for joining me in this effort. As a cleaner and more affordable option for consumers, I will continue supporting efforts that will help bolster biofuels,” said Rep. Feenstra.

“This legislation will help ensure transparency and predictability for family farmers and biofuels producers in Minnesota and across the country as they make important decisions based on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Representative Craig. “I am grateful to Representative Feenstra for working alongside me on this critical issue, and I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work to ensure that the oil industry does not receive unnecessary assistance at the expense of family farmers. It is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.”

The bipartisan bill is supported by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Farmers Union.

“We appreciate Representative Feenstra’s leadership and support of Iowa biofuels. This legislation will clarify how the RFS refinery exemption process was always intended to be implemented. We urge Congress to quickly pass this bill to once and for all end the abuse of refinery exemptions. The RFS is vital to Iowa farmers and they deserve certainty on this issue,” said Monte Shaw, Executive Director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

The Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act seeks to correct a flaw in the small refinery exemption (SRE) program regarding who is eligible. The RFS always intended to blend more low-carbon biofuels into our domestic fuel supply every year. We firmly believe that refiners have had 16 years to adjust their operations to comply with the RFS, and that EPA’s SRE authority was meant to steer them toward compliance rather than provide a never-ending excuse to avoiding their blending obligations. Legislation like this will help stabilize demand in our industry, so we can continue to produce low-carbon biofuels, provide clean energy jobs in rural areas, and achieve our nation’s climate reduction goals. We are grateful to Representatives Randy Feenstra and Angie Craig for continuing to push to restore integrity to a program run amuck,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.

“As we argued before the Supreme Court, we believe Congress has always intended the small refinery exemption to be temporary in nature. We also continue to believe the statute only allows EPA to extend exemptions for refineries that were continuously exempt, but only if they can prove disproportionate economic hardship will be caused solely by RFS compliance,” said Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of Renewable Fuels Association. “We strongly agreed with Justices Barrett, Kagan, and Sotomayor that ‘EPA cannot ‘extend’ an exemption that a refinery no longer has,’ but unfortunately their six colleagues didn’t see it that way. Thus, we applaud Representatives Feenstra and Craig for introducing this bill that would erase any lingering doubts about the intended meaning of ‘extension’ and clarify once and for all that exemptions were meant to be temporary.”

“Corn growers thank Representatives Angie Craig and Randy Feenstra for taking the lead on helping close the door on RFS waiver abuse,” said National Corn Growers Association President John Linder. “With 70 waiver petitions pending, corn growers join Members of Congress in urging EPA to use the tools they do have from the Tenth Circuit Court decision and EPA’s stated support for the Court’s opinion to resolve those waivers and move forward with putting the RFS back on track with strong volume requirements.”

“Over the past several years, the lenient approach to granting exemptions for the Renewable Fuel Standards has undermined the intent of the program – which is to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and create new opportunities for America's family farmers and rural economies,” said Rob Larew, National Farmers Union President. “By clarifying the eligibility criteria for exemptions, this bill will strengthen the RFS and help meet all its worthy objectives. We welcome the introduction of the Small Refinery Exemptions Clarification Act and thank Representatives Craig and Feenstra for their commitment to agricultural communities and environmental sustainability."

Background

The Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021 would allow certain refineries to apply for an exemption from renewable fuel blending requirements only if the refinery has received an exemption continuously since 2011. This comes after the Supreme Court ruled that certain refineries can still request and qualify for an exemption “extension,” even if previous exemptions are already expired.

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