Biofuel champions and farm groups across the country are rebuking President Donald Trump for what appears to be his latest turn against the ethanol industry amid reports his administration is looking for avenues to reverse a recent court decision against the oil refinery exemptions that have harmed a vital Iowa industry.
Multiple news outlets have reported the Trump Administration plans to appeal a federal court ruling determining the Environmental Protection Agency inappropriately issued Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) to three oil companies that had not demonstrated economic hardship as a result of biofuel blending requirements.
According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs and others, “President Donald Trump has decided to defend in court the U.S. government’s power to broadly waive biofuel requirements for many oil refineries.”
NEWS: Yet another admin decision on biofuel policy has been upended amid fierce lobbying. Now Trump has decided to appeal the court ruling, after intervention by AG Barr, sources tell me @jendlouhyhc @MarioDParker and me. Victory for oil companies; loss for biofuels industry. https://t.co/JKrFCpNa8w
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 6, 2020
The Friday morning report said, in part: “The decision to appeal a federal court ruling imperiling those exemptions follows an intervention by Attorney General Bill Barr and an intense pressure campaign by oil-state senators, including Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.”
Cruz is a well-known opponent of ethanol assistance and, at the time of his 2016 run for president, was roundly criticized by the Republican establishment in Iowa.
Then-Gov. Terry Branstad said Cruz was “the biggest opponent of renewable fuels” and “heavily financed by Big Oil.”
The White House has yet to make an official statement on the appeal.
“Clearly, there is no length to which Trump won’t go for oil and gas companies,” said former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, co-founder of Focus on Rural America. “This is an egregious step to defend handing out hardship waivers to billion-dollar companies.”
On Friday, a joint statement from several industry leaders, including the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association “called on President Trump to immediately speak out against reports from within the administration that the White House may bow to a misinformation campaign spearheaded by Senator Ted Cruz.”
“Just days ago, thousands of farmers rallied behind Secretary Perdue, who expressed his confidence that we had finally reached the end of a long and painful fight against EPA demand destruction,” the statement reads. “Tearing open that wound, against the advice of rural champions and the president’s own advisors, would be viewed as a stunning betrayal of America’s rural workers and farmers.”
In a joint letter Tuesday to the president, 21 renewable fuels and farming groups said the Tenth Circuit’s unanimous decision should apply not only to the three refineries identified in the court case, but “the ruling applies much more broadly and should fundamentally change the way EPA addresses all SRE petitions.”
“Applying the Tenth Circuit decision nationally will build on the success of your announcement last fall to boost biofuels and the rural economy,” the plaintiffs and supporting organizations said. “It will help restore integrity to the RFS, revive demand for American biofuels and farm commodities, and bring cleaner, lower-cost fuel options to consumers across the country.”
Trump’s EPA has granted an unprecedented number of SREs, allowing oil companies, some as large as Exxon and Chevron, to skirt biofuel blending requirements mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Since Trump took office, 4 billion gallons of ethanol have been diverted from the marketplace “for the benefit of major oil and gas companies,” Judge said.
In an effort to retain support in Midwest farming states, Trump repeatedly has visited Iowa to underscore his commitment to ethanol producers and the renewable fuels industry, but his actions have entirely contradicted his promises.
“Once again. A promise to protect the RFS, and this administration turns it back on our farmers and ethanol producers,” said 1st District Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. “The evidence is clear, the RFS will not be protected by the Trump Administration no matter how many times he looks my friends and neighbors in the eye and makes a promise.”
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