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RFA: RFS General Waiver Requests are Unjustified and Illegal

February 18, 2021

EPA, Regulatory, RFS


The Renewable Fuels Association today filed comments with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to earlier requests from oil refiners and the governors of six oil-producing states seeking a general waiver from 2019 and 2020 renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.


“These waiver requests, which were rushed out the door by EPA one day before President Joe Biden was sworn in, never should have seen the light of day,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “They do not satisfy any of the criteria established by the statute and they do not comply with past EPA guidance. Continuing this charade now shows a clear misunderstanding of the statutory waiver provisions and demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge regarding how the RFS actually works. The governors themselves acknowledge that the real source of economic harm experienced by refiners in 2020 was COVID-19, not the RFS. That admission alone should immediately disqualify these requests from any further consideration.”


In his comments, Cooper laid out several reasons why EPA must reject the waiver requests, including the following:


  • The harm experienced by refineries in 2020 was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, not the Renewable Fuel Standard itself. EPA requires petitioners seeking a general waiver to show that the RFS caused severe harm to the economy of a state, region, or the United States. 
  • The request by a group of small refiners that they alone be excepted from RFS requirements is clearly contrary to the law, which states that any waiver be national in scope.
  • A waiver would have no impact on renewable fuel volumes or transportation fuel prices during the compliance years for which it was requested, since they are in the past. A substantial inventory of renewable identification numbers (RINs) was carried over into 2019 and 2020 that would be available to small refineries and other obligated parties to use for compliance.
  • Academic research and the EPA’s own statements establish that refiners pass along the cost of RINs via the price they charge for fuels in the wholesale market.
  • The petitioners did not provide any economic analysis substantiating the need for a waiver, as explicitly required by the EPA’s 2008 guidance on future requests for waivers.

“It’s time for refiners to stop playing games and deal with the reality that the Renewable Fuel Standard is the law of the land—and has been so for 15 years now,” Cooper said.  “The RFS promotes energy security, boosts the rural economy, and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 1 billion tons just since 2008. We are confident that the new administration will implement the RFS as intended by Congress and finally put an end to the refiners’ efforts to skirt their renewable fuel obligations.”


Ken Colombini