Duckworth Asks for Investigation into EPA’s Abuse of Biofuel Waivers
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to launch an independent investigation into whether top EPA officials violated the law by inappropriately exempting a number of oil refineries from having to use legally required levels of biofuel. A recent report from Reuters exposed how top EPA officials, including former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, lied to Congress and the American public about why they started granting a large number of waivers to oil refineries, which drove down prices of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) to multi-year lows.
“Recent document disclosures reveal that the EPA misled Members of Congress, industry and the public in regard to the agency’s motivations and justifications for its Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) policy,” Duckworth wrote in a letter to EPA Acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan. “This deception by EPA political appointees may indicate improper motives and conflicts of interest, and it warrants a thorough review by the EPA OIG.”
The Trump EPA reportedly granted 35 waivers in 2017, significantly more than the 7 waivers the Obama Administration granted the previous year. Duckworth has been a vocal critic of the EPA’s abuse of the waiver program, calling attention to how some of the waivers have been given to large and profitable oil companies, including one owned by billionaire Trump friend and former White House advisor Carl Icahn. Duckworth has previously called on the administration “to stop abusing small refinery waivers and end its other harmful policies that are hurting farmers and contributing to the idling and closing of ethanol plants.”
In this letter, Duckworth also called attention to how Trump appointees may have violated federal law prohibiting executive branch officials from participating in matters that affect their financial interests. She has previously asked the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate whether Icahn used his White House position to influence the application of the Renewable Fuel Standard to benefit a refinery he owns.
Duckworth has also been a strong supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which supports a $5 billion biofuel industry in Illinois that employs more than 4,000 people. She has joined farmers across Illinois in urging the EPA to adopt higher ethanol-based fuel requirements and she has been critical of efforts within the Trump Administration to undermine it by shifting the point of obligation for meeting the RFS from oil refiners to blenders.
A full copy of the letter is available below and online here.
Dear Acting Inspector General Sheehan:
I write to request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiate an independent investigation into whether the EPA Administrator and other senior political appointees inappropriately granted Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) to manipulate the price of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) and reduce biofuel consumption levels below the minimum levels required by statute.
Recent document disclosures reveal that the EPA misled Members of Congress, industry and the public in regard to the agency’s motivations and justifications for its SRE policy. This deception by EPA political appointees may indicate improper motives and conflicts of interest, and it warrant a thorough review by the EPA OIG.
In addition to potential violations of the legal requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and the Administrative Procedures Act, I am also troubled that certain appointees may have risked violating section 208 of title 18, United States Code, which is the principle Federal criminal statute prohibiting Executive Branch officials from participating personally and substantially in matters affecting a personal financial interest.
The bottom line is that Congress established and continues to support the RFS program. It is the law of the land and any indication that EPA may be failing to faithfully execute existing statutory requirements warrants careful scrutiny. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my request.
United States Senator
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