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Ernst, Grassley, Bipartisan Senators Reject Legality of Waiving the RFS, Call on Administration to Protect Biofuels

Ernst and her colleagues write, “We urge you to direct the EPA to reject all calls to waive the RFS. The RFS is more important now than ever as farmers, the biofuel sector, and rural America struggle to remain operating amid the COVID-19 crisis.”

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a relentless advocate for Iowa’s biofuels community, is leading a bipartisan effort with Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in urging the Trump Administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reject requests for the RFS to be waived.

In a bipartisan letter to the president, Ernst and her colleagues explain the importance of upholding the RFS, especially during COVID-19 which has already caused harm to the biofuels community, and the detrimental impacts a waiver would have on employment, farmers, food security, fuel prices, and the environment.

In a letter to President Trump, Ernst and her colleagues write, “Waiving the RFS would cause further harm to the U.S. economy, especially our most vulnerable rural communities. It would also exacerbate the effects experienced by the biofuel sector as a result of COVID-19, causing far-reaching detrimental impacts on employment, farmers, food security, fuel prices, and the environment. The resiliency of America’s renewable fuel industry has already suffered as a result of the EPA’s drastic expansion of the small refinery waiver program in recent years.”

Further, the senators reject the legality of the waivers, “Recent requests for a waiver of the RFS are unjustified and clearly do not satisfy the rigorous requirements necessary for EPA consideration. RFS waivers can only be granted by EPA if there is a demonstration of ‘severe harm’ to the economy or environment of a state, region or the United States that is directly caused by the RFS. None of these standards are met today and the following reasons clearly demonstrate the case for rejecting the waiver requests…”  

“Farmers are enduring severe and unprecedented economic hardship brought on by continued trade disruptions and market upheavals caused by Covid-19. The endless legal and political maneuverings by the oil industry to undercut the Renewable Fuel Standard only exacerbates the pain being felt by rural Americans. Maintaining a strong RFS provides critical domestic demand for soybean oil, much-needed stability for rural communities and a pathway to economic recovery for our great country. Iowa soybean farmers recognize Senator Ernst for standing strong against repeated efforts to diminish the RFS. We join her in urging the Administration to reject any and all efforts that undermine the RFS and U.S. agriculture,” said Tim Bardole, Iowa Soybean Association President and Rippey, Iowa, Farmer.

“We commend Senator Ernst for recognizing that unlike the oil industry, the biodiesel industry has already endured years of hardship and struggle, exacerbated by the administration’s vacillating commitment to the RFS. This has cost real jobs in the heartland and contributed to the farm crisis. We are grateful to Senator Ernst for repeatedly standing up to refiners and defending the RFS, an extremely successful energy policy when working as Congress originally intended. We urge the Administration to see through the oil industry’s latest ploy to avoid their legal obligations and return to their unchallenged monopoly on America’s energy supply,” said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board Executive Director.

“Senator Ernst understands that rural communities in Iowa and across the nation depend on the renewable fuels industry for job creation, economic vitality, and new market opportunities for farmers,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “That’s why she continues to lead the fight to protect and defend the Renewable Fuel Standard against baseless attacks like the recent waiver requests. Just as RFA underscored in its recent letter to EPA, Senator Ernst and her colleagues point out that these RFS waiver requests are completely unjustified and do not satisfy statutory requirements. Senator Ernst is a steadfast and passionate warrior for renewable fuels, and we greatly appreciate her continued leadership and determination.”

“Corn farmers appreciate Senators Ernst, Smith, Grassley and Stabenow leading this effort in support of farmers and the RFS,” said Kevin Ross, Iowa farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “We need to maintain markets, not take them away. With the significant shut down of ethanol production already reducing corn demand and impacting corn prices, unjustified requests to undermine the RFS would bring more economic harm to agriculture. Corn farmers thank the Senators for sending a clear message to reject attempts to waive RFS requirements and make a difficult situation worse.”

“America’s biodiesel producers appreciate Senator Ernst’s strong leadership in demonstrating Senate opposition to efforts to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard. The current economic crisis is causing a painful ripple effect throughout America’s agricultural economy and food supply chain, including for biodiesel producers. Biodiesel and renewable diesel producers are an important part of the nation’s critical agriculture infrastructure. Maintaining a strong RFS will be important to the entire nation’s economic recovery,” said Kurt Kovarik, Vice President of Federal Affairs, National Biodiesel Board.

“We’re grateful to our champions who are standing shoulder to shoulder with rural communities confronting a wave of biofuel plant closures, farm bankruptcies, and demand destruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Emily Skor, Growth Energy CEO. “The oil industry’s transparent attempts to capitalize on the current health crisis to steal markets from farmers and biofuel producers threatens to dash hopes of an economic recovery in America’s farm belt. ?Our lawmakers and governors have made it clear that any move to further weaken biofuel markets is a non-starter, and we urge the administration to swiftly reject oil-backed attacks on the RFS.  Now, more than ever, we need leaders to stand up for rural America and deliver the urgent relief our industry needs to protect biofuel jobs and their vital role in the agricultural supply chain – from producing animal feed for livestock operations to carbon dioxide for meatpackers and municipal water treatment.” 

“It’s incredibly devious of the oil industry and its champions to use the economic pain Americans are facing right now to circumvent their obligations to increase the use of clean fuels. If EPA were to grant this waiver it would only undermine efforts to improve air quality and public health at this critical time,” said Stephanie Batchelor, Vice President of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section. “We applaud Senators Ernst and Smith for leading the opposition against this effort. We must build towards a resilient and cleaner future and that starts by promoting investment in low carbon fuels and supporting the farmers and sustainable fuel producers in rural America.”


This letter builds on Ernst’s efforts to support Iowa’s biofuels community during COVID-19. Last month, Ernst called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide additional funds to the biofuels industry through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which was bolstered by the bipartisan Phase 3 relief package she helped passed.