Minnesota Democrats take aim at EPA, White House over proposed biofuels rule

A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision released Monday affirms a Swift County District Court decision allowing the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company in Benson to terminate its contract with the Glacial Plains Cooperative headquartered in Murdock. The two cooperatives have been in litigation over the contract since 2014. The contract made Glacial Plains Cooperative the exclusive corn handler for the ethanol company. West Central Tribune file photo
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ST PAUL — Weeks after the White House attempted to make amends with the ethanol industry, a new rule on small oil refinery waivers proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is drawing criticism from Minnesota Democrats.

The Trump Administration drew criticism from both sides of the aisle for steadily increasing its number of Renewable Fuel Standard waivers granted to small refineries since 2016, thus depressing the need for American-made biofuels. In a year where Midwestern ethanol plants are closing and farmers are up against a brutal agriculture economy, the White House's waivers, which ultimately dropped the volume of biofuels blended into U.S. supply by 4.04 billion gallons, were unwelcome.

The White House sought to make amends earlier in October with a new ruling that would expand biofuel requirements, which the Minnesota Corn Growers Association called a "positive first step." But the EPA's proposed rule released on Tuesday, Oct. 15 , included a curveball: Under the rule, the EPA will calculate the volume of biofuels U.S. refiners must blend based on three-year averages of exempted gallons, according to Department of Energy recommendations.

Minnesota's Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who chairs the U.S. House's powerful Agriculture Committee, said in a Wednesday, Oct. 16, statement that the EPA's announcement "falls short of the promises made by the President, and doesn’t undo the damage done to farmers and biofuel producers.”

"The Administration has yet to say how they will address the 4 billion gallons of lost biofuels demand from waivers previously granted or produce a concrete plan to meet the annual 15 billion gallon requirement set in law," he continued.


Democratic U.S. Senator for Minnesota and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar dug into the proposal harder in a statement, calling it "too little, too late for farmers, ethanol producers, and the environment." Putting the blame on the White House, which granted 85 SREs since 2016, Klobuchar said the Administration's rule is "only a half-hearted band aid."

"The President needs to stop issuing these improper small refinery exemptions (SREs) that allow refiners to evade their compliance obligations under the Clean Air Act and undermine the original intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)," she said. "By making exemptions for his big oil buddies, this Administration has broken its promise to rural America and turned its back on our farming communities."

According to the EPA , the proposal does not change volume proposals for 2020 and 2021, and the rule is not final. A public hearing will be held Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C., and a 30-day public comment period will follow before it is finalized.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at or 651-290-0707.
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