Ernst Pushes for Greater Transparency in Small Refinery Waiver Process

The Iowa Senator is working across the aisle on legislation that will provide more predictability to Iowa’s farmers and producers

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) continues to be a strong voice for Iowa farmers and ethanol producers, this time pushing bipartisan legislation that will bring greater transparency and predictability to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) small refinery exemption process. The legislation will ensure EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual renewable volume obligations (RVO) it sets each November.

“E15 year-round is a tremendous boon to Iowa corn growers and ethanol producers, but there’s more that needs to be done to ensure we maintain a robust RFS,” said Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “EPA has a harmful habit of handing out small refinery waivers like candy—doing so behind closed doors, with no Congressional oversight. Our bipartisan legislation will address these issues head on and provide more predictability and transparency for Iowans.”

S.1840, the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Integrity Act of 2019 put forward by Senators Ernst, Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Thune (R-SD), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would:

  • Require small refineries to petition for RFS hardship exemptions by June 1 of each year;
  • Ensure the following key information surrounding small refinery exemptions is made publicly available:
  • Require the EPA to report to Congress on the methodology it uses when granting small refinery exemptions.
    • Petitioner’s name;
    • Name and location of the facility for which relief was requested;
    • Time period for which relief was requested; and
    • The extent to which the EPA granted or denied the requested relief.


Senator Ernst has consistently communicated with the president and his administration about the need to protect and maintain the RFS. The Senator has urged EPA to stop issuing so-called “hardship” waivers exempting obligated parties, to provide topline information about the waivers already issued, to disclose whether or not the agency redistributed the waived volume obligations among the non-exempted obligated parties, and to outline the agency’s plan to make the waiver process more transparent.

Earlier this year at a Senate EPW Committee hearing, Senator Ernst held EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s feet to the fire with regard to ensuring the agency examines its practice of evaluating and determining hardship in small refinery exemptions.

In addition, Senator Ernst worked tirelessly with the Trump Administration, specifically EPA, to remove the outdated restriction on the sale of E15 year-round. On May 31, the EPA finalized a new rule lifting the ban, and last week the Senator joined President Trump in Council Bluffs, Iowa to celebrate the big win for Iowa farmers and producers.