Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., have introduced the bipartisan RFS Integrity Act of 2019.

According to Fischer, the legislation seeks to provide more certainty for rural America by bringing transparency and predictability to EPA’s small refinery exemption process. She said the bill would require small refineries to petition for Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hardship exemptions by June 1 of each year. This change would ensure that EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligations it sets each November.

“The bipartisan solution we are putting forth today builds off of the recent victory on year-round E-15 sales,” she said.

Fischer said that in the past, EPA has issued small refinery exemptions after the Renewable Volume Obligations have already been determined.

“That’s unfair, and it hurts our farmers and ethanol producers,” she said. “This bill would shine a light on what’s been an obscure exemption process and help promote economic growth in rural America.”

Fischer said the bill also would increase transparency by ensuring that key information surrounding small refinery exemptions is made publicly available. Additionally, the legislation requires the EPA to report to Congress on the methodology it uses when granting small refinery exemptions, a process that has been repeatedly carried out behind closed doors with little to no congressional oversight.

Recently, Fischer traveled with President Donald Trump to announce the year-round sale of E-15. She was a co-sponsor of the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. The bill would have allowed retailers across the country to sell E-15 and other higher-ethanol/gasoline fuel blends year-round, increasing regulatory certainty and eliminating confusion at the pump.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) commended the senators for introducing the new legislation.

“NBB and its members appreciate Sens. Deb Fischer and Tammy Duckworth for their bipartisan effort to end EPA’s rampant use of small refinery exemptions to undermine the RFS program, along with biofuel producers and feedstock providers,” said Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs.

Kovarik said the legislation highlights the fact that EPA’s actions on small refinery exemptions is inconsistent with the president’s support for the RFS.

“Over the past two years, EPA retroactively granted RFS hardship exemptions to nearly every refiner that asked,” he said. “When EPA issues retroactive small refinery exemptions and refuses to account for the lost gallons in annual volumes, it actively undercuts the RFS program. The exemptions handed out last year for 2015, 2016 and 2017 destroyed demand for more than 360 million gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel.”

EPA’s retroactive exemptions for 2015, 2016, and 2017 reduced compliance with the RFS volumes for those years. NBB conservatively estimates the demand destruction at 364 million gallons of biomass-based diesel. University of Illinois Economist Scott Irwin estimates the economic harm to U.S. biodiesel producers at $7.7 billion.

Biodiesel is a diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. It is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification. NBB is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel value chain, including producers, feedstock suppliers, and fuel distributors, as well as the U.S. renewable diesel industry.

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