March 12, 2020

Duckworth Presses EPA Deputy Administrator Nominee for Clarity on Trump Administration’s Broken Promises to Farmers


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – At a U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) nomination hearing, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) pressed Doug Benevento, the Nominee to be Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to commit to suspending any action on small refinery hardship waiver requests until the Administration decides whether or not to appeal a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit’s unanimous decision was a clear rejection of the Trump Administration’s unlawful effort to harm American biofuels and weaken the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program through abuse of the waiver process. Despite EPA Administrator Wheeler indicating that the Trump Administration would accept the Appellate Court’s ruling and apply it nationwide, the President backtracked on this plan at the urging of big oil refineries and their allies. According to public reports, President Trump even called certain Republican Senators personally to inform them that his administration would likely decide to appeal the ruling. Video of Duckworth’s questions at the hearing is available here.

“This Administration’s abuse of small refinery hardship waivers has caused many producers to shut down and many farms to go bankrupt,” Duckworth said. “I’m very concerned that this Administration is going to continue to break the promises President Trump made to farmers all across the country by destroying the ethanol industry. I’ll keep working to protect the RFS and hold Mr. Benevento accountable if he is confirmed.”

Waivers issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the small refinery exemptions (SRE) program are intended to help small refineries, but under the Trump Administration has used the program to undermine the original intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by issuing dozens of waivers, including to large and profitable oil companies like Exxon and Chevron.

Duckworth met with Benevento yesterday in her office yesterday to discuss the RFS issue. In June of last year, Duckworth joined U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) in introducing bipartisan legislation to reform the EPA’s small refinery exemption program by making applications for small refinery exemptions (SRE) public and creating more certainty for rural America by requiring SRE applications to be submitted by June 1st, instead of year-round. Duckworth also led her colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to uphold the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard in September of last year.