U.S. EPA eyes extending refinery biofuel deadlines, no action on waivers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would propose to extend deadlines for refiners to prove compliance with biofuel laws, but signaled it would not decide on a slew of pending waiver requests submitted by the industry.
The agency’s proposal represented mixed news for refiners hard hit by slumping energy demand during the coronavirus pandemic and eager to sidestep regulatory costs associated with U.S. biofuel blending policy. It also marks one of the last actions from President Donald Trump’s EPA before he leaves office on Jan. 20.
The agency said it is proposing to extend the compliance deadline for 2019 biofuel blending obligations to Nov. 30, 2021, and an associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports to June 1, 2022. The EPA is also proposing to extend the 2020 deadlines to Jan. 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022.
Refiners must hand in credits to the EPA each year to prove they complied with their annual biofuel blending obligations for the previous year.
The agency also said it was not taking a position on the availability of 2019 small refinery waivers, which can exempt oil refiners from biofuel blending obligations. The agency said the decision was related to pending litigation regarding the waiver program.
The proposal was outlined in a document seen by Reuters that is scheduled to be posted on the Federal Register on Friday.
Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels like corn-based ethanol into their fuel mix, or buy credits from those that do. Refiners can apply for exemptions if they can prove the obligations would cause them financial harm.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, EPA had not enforced compliance for some refineries for the 2019 compliance year.
U.S. senators including Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa urged EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a letter dated Thursday not to grant small refinery exemptions until ongoing litigation is resolved.
Renewable fuel (D6) credits for 2020 traded at 90 cents each on Thursday, up from 79 cents in the previous session, traders said.
Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; Editing by Paul Simao and Matthew Lewis