© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded into a truck to be transported for ethanol production in Kelley, Iowa, U.S., January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce a decision as early as Thursday on numerous pending applications from small fuel producers seeking to be excused from biofuel blending mandates, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The EPA has accumulated a backlog of more than 60 requests for the so-called Small Refinery Exemptions, sought by refineries that argue the cost of blending biofuels like ethanol into their fuel could put them out of business, after a 2020 court decision narrowed the criteria for what facilities should be eligible for the relief.
The EPA in December issued a proposal to reject 65 pending SRE applications. EPA’s web site shows the agency has a total of 69 pending SRE requests.
The sources said the EPA is poised to announce a decision on some or all of the pending SREs as early as Thursday. It was not clear if the agency’s decision would match the December proposal.
The agency declined to comment.
Former President Donald Trump’s EPA had dramatically increased such waivers to refiners, angering biofuel producers who argued the administration was abusing the program to help its allies in the oil industry at the expense of farmers. Trump’s EPA denied the claim.
Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, oil refineries must blend billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol and other fuels into the fuel pool or purchase credits from those that do. The policy is intended to help farmers and reduce petroleum imports.