GAO Investigating Small Refiner Blending Waivers Issued Under Trump Administration

The EPA is providing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with confidential documents relating to small refiner’s petitions for exemptions to biofuel blending mandates under the RFS.

The EPA announced it will provide the GAO with all documents, information, and data related to small refinery exemption petitions received by the agency from the start of the RFS program through the present.

The GAO requested the documents as part of its investigation into the dramatic expansion of small refiner renewable fuel blending waivers issued under the Trump Administration.

The investigation originated after Members of Congress from corn producing states asked the GAO back in 2019 to investigate the Trump Administration’s secretive process for reviewing small refinery exemption petitions.

GAO launched the investigation in 2020 and requested the EPA to provide all information related to small refinery exemption approvals. However, the EPA stymied the investigation by refusing to provide the documents on three separate occasions.

The exemptions have sparked controversy between the oil industry and ethanol producers.

The ethanol producers say that the exemptions hurt demand for ethanol, while the oil industry argues the exemptions are necessary to keep small refiners in business.

GAO said it is also investigating small refiner viability scores assigned to the waiver applications by the Energy Department, which helps advise EPA on the program.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Michael Regan indicated his agency is likely to issue proposed biofuel blending requirements very soon for 2021 and 2022 by this summer, with a final rule completed by the end of November.

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