DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) — The federal government announced Monday it will support the ethanol industry in a lawsuit over biofuel waivers granted to oil refineries under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it is reversing course and will support a January 2020 decision by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit filed by the Renewable Fuels Association and farm groups. The lawsuit is headed to arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court this spring.
According to a recent study by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the production of ethanol and biodiesel accounts for nearly $4 billion in state GDP, supports 37,000 direct and indirect jobs, and boosts Iowa household income by $1.8 billion.
Iowa leads the nation in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Iowa has 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 4.5 billion gallons annually. In addition, Iowa has 11 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce over 400 million gallons annually.
The move by the EPA comes roughly a month after President Joe Biden took office. Several Iowa lawmakers and industry leaders released statements following today’s decision.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds
“The small refinery exemption waivers have undermined the Renewable Fuel Standard for far too long, diminishing demand for ethanol and biofuels. Today’s announcement by the EPA in defense of the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision to rein in these waivers is a victory for Iowa farmers, our renewable fuels industry, and our rural economy. It is an encouraging sign from the Biden Administration on renewable fuel policy, but we cannot let up until the 10th Circuit’s ruling is fully upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Governor Kim Reynolds
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m glad the EPA has finally come around to acknowledging that waivers it had been granting to Big Oil conflicted with the laws passed by Congress, as well as its own mission to promote a cleaner environment. Congress clearly designed hardship waivers to be used in limited, need-specific cases when it passed the Renewable Fuels Standard, and we made no bones about reaffirming this intent in the years since. The EPA has now reached the same conclusion, and I’m confident that the Supreme Court will as well.”
Senator Chuck Grassley
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst
“Unlawfully-granted small refinery exemptions have caused over 4 billion gallons of demand destruction for ethanol and biodiesel and caused numerous biofuel plants across the heartland to shut down—depressing commodity values in an already uncertain time for Iowa farmers and producers. The 10th Circuit decision rightly ruled that EPA abused the SRE program and illegally granted these waivers.
For months on end, Iowa’s biofuel community and Senator Grassley and I have been calling on EPA to see the 10th Circuit decision as the law of the land, and finally, they’ve listened. This is a step to provide much-needed certainty to ethanol and biodiesel producers. While this is certainly a win, we will not take our foot off the gas in holding the new administration accountable to uphold the entire Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ensure transparency in the exemptions process going forward.”
Senator Joni Ernst
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig
“The decision to uphold the RFS is great news for all Iowans — our farmers, our rural communities, and our drivers who get more affordable, more environmentally-friendly choices at the gas pump. The renewable fuels industry plays a critical role in our state’s economy and workforce. We must continue to invest in infrastructure that allows fuel retailers to offer biodiesel and ethanol at even more pumps around the state so we can continue to grow demand for this important Iowa-made product.”
Secretary Mike Naig
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association
“We are excited and pleased to hear EPA finally embrace the common-sense 10th Circuit Court decision on RFS exemptions. The RFS exemption program was always intended to be a tool to provide temporary relief to truly small refineries and it has been abused for far too long. Hopefully this signals an end to the dark days of undermining the RFS through illegal exemptions and waivers, and we can look forward to the law being applied in a way that actually grows demand for ethanol and biodiesel blends as was always intended.”
Executive Director Monte Shaw
The Associated Press contributed to this report.