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Coalition Challenges EPA on 2018 Refinery Waivers

4 years, 6 months ago by Jim Dewey

A coalition of renewable fuels and agricultural trade organizations filed a petition with the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The petition challenges the process the Environmental Protection Agency uses to exempt certain unknown small refineries from their respective obligations under the Renewable Fuels Standard in 2018. The coalition includes American Coalition for Ethanol, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and Renewable Fuels Association. In the petition, the coalition noted that the EPA’s document outlining the waiver decisions was just two pages long. These two pages outlined the reasons behind granting 36 waiver exemptions to small refineries that didn’t then have to blend approximately 1.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel. The document doesn’t reveal details and contains just “bare-bones” reasoning behind the decisions. Furthermore, the groups point out that the decision didn’t even address whether or not the refineries were eligible for the exemptions. It also didn’t include an analysis of “disproportionate economic hardship” as the statute requires. The coalition says, “Even as the Trump Administration indicates it’s taking steps to account for future small refinery exemptions, the coalition remains concerned that the EPA’s abuse of the small refinery exemption program diverges from the spirit and letter of the Clean Air Act.”


Grassley; Losing Hope on USMCA Passage This Year

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he’s “very worried about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement for the first time.” He tells Politico that he’s pessimistic that Congress will sign off on the deal before the end of this year. Grassley has maintained an optimistic outlook for some time as the Trump administration negotiated with House Democrats on potential changes to the deal. However, Politico says talks are stretching into month number four, and with only 22 legislative days left in 2019, Grassley is losing faith. He’s also asking U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to not cave into Democrat demands. He says changing the trade deal’s labor, environmental, enforcement, and prescription drug provisions too much could put Republican support for the pact in jeopardy. As recently as July, Grassley had said he was “optimistic” after a 30-minute meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Trump Administration’s trade boss is scheduled to meet again with House Democrats this week in continuing efforts to push the legislation through Congress and get it to the president’s desk for his signature.


Judge Says Amendment to U.S.-Mexico Sugar Deal is “Unlawful”

A judge with the U.S. Court of International Trade struck down a sugar trade pact between the U.S. and Mexico that was renegotiated by the Trump Administration in 2017. Nasdaq Dot Com says the judge ruled the decision to amend a previous agreement between the two nations was unlawful. Specifically, Judge Leo M. Gordon says the U.S. Commerce Department’s determination to amend an agreement that suspended U.S. countervailing duties on Mexican sugar imports was unlawful. The Trump Administration’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had redone the 2014 trade deal, which some U.S. companies said had curtailed their sugar supplies. Trump said on Twitter back in 2017 that the agreement was “a very good one for both Mexico and the U.S.” A U.S. sugar company had challenged the 2017 amended agreement, alleging that competitors were using the trade talks to deny it access to cheap Mexican sugar imports. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s failure to maintain full records of all its meetings cannot be described as “harmless,” the judge said in his ruling. The decision will revert sugar trade terms between the U.S. and Mexico back to the 2014 agreement, and it marks a blow to the Trump Administration by overturning its very first trade agreement.


Missouri Cattle Deal Leads to Murder of Wisconsin Brothers

A Missouri man at the center of an investigation into the disappearance of two brothers from Wisconsin has been charged with murdering both of them. The brothers, Nick and Justin Diemel (DEE-mul), were visiting Garland Joseph Nelson on cattle business. They traveled to Missouri to collect a $250,000 check from Nelson for cattle that were currently in Nelson’s care. Nick Diemel, age 35, and Justin, 24 years old, were in Missouri when they went missing on July 21 after not making their return flight to Wisconsin. KMBC Dot Com says after the brothers were reported missing, police say Nelson gave different explanations of events that were an attempt to keep them from locating the missing brothers. In a court affidavit, authorities believe that Nick and Justin Diemel never left Nelson’s property and were killed there. Authorities found bloodstains on clothing belonging to Nelson, and DNA testing confirmed the blood was Nick Diemel’s. Nelson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, abandonment of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence, unlawful possession of a firearm, as well as an armed criminal action.


U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Fights for Truth in Labeling

The United States Cattlemen filed a petition for rulemaking with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to address “Product of the USA” and “Made in the USA” claims on U.S. beef. The USCA says since the repeal of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) back in 2015, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a U.S. beef product. Cattle or beef imported into the U.S. that undergoes further processing or handling at a USDA-inspected facility can then be labeled as a “Product of the United States.” That’s even if the handling of the product inside U.S. borders was minimal. The petition says, “To eliminate the likelihood of confusion and to better inform consumers, USCA contends that voluntary labels indicating ‘Made in the USA,’ ‘Product of the USA,’ or similar content should be limited to beef from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the United States.” U.S. Cattlemen’s founding members were the first proponents of Country of Origin Labeling in the 2002 Farm Bill. The organization says it remains steadfast in its support for a truthful and transparent labeling program for U.S. beef products.


CoBank: Hemp Offers Big Risks, Big Rewards to Agriculture

Since the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, agriculture has never been more interested in adding hemp to its crop rotations. A lot of available information says there’s a large financial upside to the industry. Producers responded to that by tripling hemp acreage between 2017 and 2018. However, CoBank says that false, outdated, biased, or contradictory information can make it difficult to navigate the industry. CoBank’s Knowledge Division released a report that includes nine risks or uncertainties that face each of hemp’s three crops and markets, which include fiber, grain/seed, and CBD production. Crystal Carpenter, a specialty crop analyst, says,” Overall, CBD production has the highest level of risk across the board due to a range of factors. The industry could face many headwinds from seed quality, labor costs and availability, THC limit risks, as well as long-term acceptance by the Food and Drug Administration.” Carpenter adds that the risks of a new industry like hemp are compounded by potential legal and regulatory hurdles. The USDA is expected to release hemp regulations and guidance soon. The timing of future FDA regulation will be critical to long-term demand for CBD.   


Ethanol and corn industry groups are asking a federal court for relief from some three dozen Environmental Protection Agency biofuel waivers to small oil refiners. The renewable fuel and ag groups filed a petition in the Washington, D.C., U.S. Court of Appeals challenging EPA’s biofuel exemption process for 36 small oil refiners—31 approved--based on economic hardship.

The groups charge EPA’s rationale, laid out in just two pages of only the most “bare bones reasoning,” exempts small refineries from blending almost one and a half billion gallons of renewable fuel. Renewable Fuels Association chief Geoff Cooper…

“It’s really another egregious misstep by EPA, in terms of its mismanagement of the Small Refinery Exemption program, and we’re not going to take any of these lying down.” 

The coalition is concerned EPA will abuse small refinery exemptions in the future, given the agency’s lack of transparency and newly proposed use of Energy Department estimates of future waived gallons, not actual gallons waived…t

“The goalposts keep moving, here, and it’s very frustrating…when we felt we were finally seeing ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ on this issue, it turns out, that light may have been a train coming at us.” 

Cooper discounts recent assurances by EPA’s chief Andrew Wheeler, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, and President Trump of the statutory 15-billion gallons, even less than promised…

We think there’s a very high likelihood we could end up below 15 billion again if EPA’s supplemental proposal is finalized.”  

Cooper plans to make his industry’s case here on Capitol Hill next Tuesday when a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on EPA’s handling of biofuel waivers.

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