Federal regulators on Monday handed a victory to corn farmers and the renewable fuels industry by refusing to allow a group of petroleum refiners in 14 states to forgo requirements to blend ethanol into the gasoline they make.
Members of Congress from farm states have heavily lobbied President Donald Trump to reject the waiver requests for months. Those representing oil-producing states supported the waivers, which were originally designed to help small refineries that struggled financially to meet federally mandated ethanol targets. In recent years, however, larger refineries also have received exemptions from the Trump administration.
The petroleum refiners had sought 54 exemptions retroactively, some as far back as 2011, that would have allowed the petroleum industry to remove hundreds of millions of gallons of corn-based ethanol from the market.
Significant exemptions from the congressional requirement of blending at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year into the nation's fuel supply began after Trump took office and appointed Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Congressional Republicans including Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley nevertheless lauded Trump for the decision.
A petroleum industry group response, however, was critical of EPA and Trump.
"The notion that this administration is 'following the rule of law' through its latest betrayal of U.S. refinery workers is laughable," said Chet Thompson, chief executive officer of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group for producers of fuel and petrochemicals used in many products.