Rep. Axne, Sen. Klobuchar Urge USDA to Conduct Economic Impact Report on EPA Biofuel

October 3, 2019
Press Release
Axne, Klobuchar express concern regarding recent EPA statement claiming “zero evidence” that biofuel waivers are hurting ethanol producers, request USDA conduct an economic impact report

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA – Today, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA-03) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conduct a study on the economic impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) abuse of biofuel waivers.

In light of recent comments made by the EPA that there is “zero evidence” biofuel waivers are hurting our ethanol industry, Klobuchar and Axne requested the USDA specifically research and report on the impact these waivers are having on farm income, commodity prices and renewable fuel usage. The Members sent the letter ahead of a roundtable discussion, hosted by Rep. Axne and Sen. Klobuchar at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy this morning, to hear directly from farmers, producers and plant workers.

“Ethanol plants in states including Minnesota and Iowa have recently announced that they would temporarily close or reduce production, which has cost 2,500 rural jobs and impacted demand for more than 225 million bushels of corn,” Klobuchar and Axne wrote.

 “We strongly disagree and believe that a study from USDA on the impact to farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage for the small refinery waivers granted by the EPA will help inform the decision making process when the EPA evaluates future waiver petitions,” the Members added.

In the letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Members expressed concerns that the EPA continues to misuse small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the detriment of farmers and rural communities.

The Trump Administration recently approved 31 SREs, or so-called “hardship” waivers, which are intended to help small refineries by exempting them from the RFS. However, the EPA has issued dozens of waivers, including for some of the most profitable oil companies in the world, resulting in lost jobs in rural communities and lost markets for farmers at a time when they are already struggling with low commodity prices and ongoing trade disputes. Under the Trump Administration, 85 SREs have been approved, contributing to a reduction in the use of over 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:   

October 3, 2019

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write to express our ongoing concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to misuse small refinery hardship waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the detriment of farmers and rural communities. Farmers and rural communities are struggling with low prices, unstable weather conditions, and uncertainty with export markets. To help ensure that future waivers do not add to these challenges, we respectfully ask the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a study on the impact of the 85 small refinery waivers issued by EPA for 2016, 2017, and 2018 on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage.

In August 2019, the EPA granted another 31 small refinery waivers, bringing the total number of waivers issued under the Trump Administration to 85. These waivers have reduced demand for over 4 billion gallons of biofuels. Every waiver granted negatively impacts the rural economy. Ethanol plants in states including Minnesota and Iowa have recently announced that they would temporarily close or reduce production, which has cost 2,500 rural jobs and impacted demand for more than 225 million bushels of corn.

In light of these deeply troubling trends, we are extremely concerned by an EPA spokesperson’s recent statement that, “There is zero evidence that EPA’s congressional mandated small refinery exemption program…has had any negative impact on domestic corn ethanol producers.”

We strongly disagree and believe that a study from USDA on the impact to farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage for the small refinery waivers granted by the EPA will help inform the decision making process when the EPA evaluates future waiver petitions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,