OMAHA — Gov. Pete Ricketts said the Environmental Protection Agency owes farmers an explanation on its decision to grant small refineries exemptions from their obligations under the 2018 Renewable Fuels Standard.

On Thursday, Ricketts addressed the 32nd annual American Coalition for Ethanol conference in Omaha. During his address, he discussed the EPA’s recent decision to exempt 31 small refineries from fulfilling their Renewable Volume Obligations under the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard.

He told his audience that Nebraska was the second largest ethanol producing state in the nation and that President Trump’s approval of year-round E15 earlier this year in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was a “big win for Nebraska.”

“There is, however, still more work to do,” Ricketts said. “While the EPA granted fewer small refinery waivers to the RFS this year, the 1.4 billion gallons waived undermines the purpose of the RFS. To deliver on President Trump’s support for ethanol, the EPA should be more transparent about the waiver process and reallocate any waived gallons. They owe it to our farmers.”

Each year, several small refineries petition the EPA for temporary exemptions to their RVOs. The EPA exempted fewer than 10 small refineries annually under the RFS for 2013-2015. However, in recent years the EPA has been much more willing to grant exemptions. Under the 2018 RFS, 40 small refineries sought exemptions and 31 received them.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board said the announced exemptions follows the 54 waivers the Trump Administration granted in 2016 and 2017, which caused 2.6 billion gallons of demand decline. The ethanol board said the new waivers add another loss of 1.4 billion gallons, for a total loss of 4 billion gallons.

“Over the past two years, the EPA has granted hardship waivers to refineries owned by companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron,” said Roger Berry, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “Their continued handouts to the oil industry comes during a time when heartland farmers are really struggling due to depressed commodity prices, flooding and trade wars. Securing access and demand for homegrown, cleaner-burning biofuels should be top priority from an economic and environmental standpoint, not destroying the marketplace program the Renewable Fuel Standard was created for.”

American Coalition for Ethanol said the RFS has deterred more than $40 billion in foreign oil purchases thus far, along with reducing lifecycle greenhouse gases emissions by 42 percent, and serves as a catalyst for technology innovation and private-sector investment in advanced biofuels.

The EPA released proposed 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations for the RFS and is accepting comments on the proposal until Aug. 30. The public is invited to engage and make their voices heard regarding the proposed rule here.

“Exempting refiners from blending their obligated share of ethanol directly undermines demand for the quality fuel produced by our hard working farmers and the 1,400 Nebraskans directly employed in the ethanol industry,” Berry said. “I urge all who care about access to cleaner-burning fuel to contact your members of Congress to call for immediate action and submit your comments by Aug. 30. State the need to reallocate the 4 billion lost gallons in the 2020 RVOs.”

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