Grassley discusses SRE reallocation proposal during media call

By Erin Voegele | September 17, 2019

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, indicated the biofuels industry represented a united front at recent White House meetings related to small refinery exemptions (SREs) but stressed he will not announce support for the resulting policy package until it is finalized on paper. Grassley made the comments during a Sept. 17 press call.

During the call, Grassley referenced a recent White House meeting with several senators, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler attended the meeting via phone. “They had a 13-point program,” Grassley said. “We went in with a similar plan,” noting that if it comes out in paper the way it was discussed during the meeting it could represent a win-win for small refineries and biofuels.

Grassley noted Trump was surprised at the reaction to the 31 SREs approved by the EPA in August and didn’t realize what an impact the approval of those waivers would have. According to Grassley, Trump was receiving different complaints from those representing corn, soybeans, ethanol and biodiesel. Those biofuel stakeholders were able to come together and come up with a unified plan that was presented to Trump.

If that plan is accurately reflected in an U.S. EPA rulemaking “the industry and the ag groups are committed to saying the president has delivered on what we want,” Grassley said. However, Grassley also stressed he would reserve announcing his support for the plan until it has been finalized on paper by the EPA. “I’m going to wait and see what EPA does, because you know what I’ve said about EPA being a tool of Big Oil,” he added.

When asked about the timing of the plan’s release, Grassley said “I would speculate that the president is tired of dealing with this. He’s more or less said so several times. Even back when we were in the White House talking about E15, it just seemed like…he couldn’t satisfy both Big Oil and farmers, and he was trying to do that. And, maybe that is where he has some shortcomings—trying to satisfy everybody.” Grassley did not give a specific timeframe for an expected release of the plan, but noted and “early announcement” is expected.

Grassley was also asked about Trump’s meetings with oil interests this week and their likely push for a price cap on renewable identification numbers (RINs). Grassley noted that a RIN cap would be bad for the biofuels industry and stressed the oil industry doesn’t need it as RIN prices are far below the highs experienced several years ago.

According to Grassley, the ethanol industry is simply asking for the 15 billion statutory level for conventional biofuels to actually be set at 15 billion gallons, even after the impact of SREs. While the EPA is expected to release a rulemaking reflecting that request, Grassley said he won’t announce anything or “say cheers” before he sees the proposal on paper. “I know there is a big voice for Big Oil in EPA,” he said. “I’ve been hoodwinked so many times, not just by EPA on this issue, but by other bureaucracies as well, so I’m just going to see if what they talked about is the end product.” He also noted that “anything else that was said there is a private discussion I don’t want to report on.”