Exclusive: Trump’s EPA granted last-minute waivers to Sinclair Oil biofuels

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The US Environmental Protection Agency has granted the Sinclair Oil Corporation waivers exempting both of its refineries in Wyoming from The biofuel blending requirements for the 2019 compliance year, said two sources familiar with the matter, making it the only company to have received exemptions for that year so far.

The EPA announced that it had granted two waivers for 2019 to the refining plants Tuesday evening, hours before the departure of President Donald Trump’s administration, but did not identify the recipients. About 30 other waiver questions for that year went unanswered.

The two waivers went to the 85,000 b / d Sinclair refinery in Wyoming and the 30,000 b / d Sinclair Casper refinery, also in Wyoming, the sources said, asking not to be named to discuss the matter.

The EPA also granted a waiver to a refinery plant for the 2018 compliance year, but it was unclear who the recipient was, the sources said.

Representatives of the EPA and Sinclair, a private company, did not immediately comment.

The announcement marked one of the EPA’s latest moves under Trump and sparked criticism from both the biofuel industry, which opposes these exemptions, and the oil industry, which said the agency left too many persistent exemption problems unanswered.

The so-called Small Refinery Exemption program is part of the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires refineries to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into their fuel mix or buy credits from those who do. Refiners can apply for an exemption if they have an average throughput of 75,000 bpd or less and can demonstrate that the blending requirements would cause them financial harm.

The waiver program has been at the center of a heated battle between the oil and biofuel industries since Trump took office and has greatly expanded the number of exemptions granted to refineries each year.

The biofuel industry and farmers say the waivers have hurt demand for products like corn-based ethanol, while the oil industry rejects it and says the exemptions are needed to keep small refineries running.

It is not yet clear how the Biden administration will manage the waiver program.

In January 2020, the Circuit’s 10th Court of Appeals ruled in a case initiated by the biofuel industry that the EPA can only grant exemptions to refining plants that have received them continuously every year since 2010.

That decision cast doubt on the entire exemption program as the refining industry says only two refineries have continuously received exemptions for a decade.

The refining industry successfully persuaded the Supreme Court earlier this year to consider the case. That hearing has not yet been set.

It was not immediately clear whether Sinclair has continuously received such waivers since 2010 or what circumstances led it to obtain the 2019 waivers.

Sinclair’s refineries did not receive an exemption for the 2013 compliance year, according to a March statement from rival of the Wynnewood Refining Company. And it hadn’t received one for 2018 as of 2019, according to a petition filed with the EPA. It was not immediately clear whether he had been insured by then.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled Thursday that the EPA’s action to grant the three waivers this week must be suspended after an emergency motion filed Tuesday by the Renewable Fuels Association challenged the efforts of the agency to process them.

There are still 32 pending waiver requests from refineries for the 2019 compliance year and 44 pending applications for the 2018 compliance year, according to the EPA website.

Reportage by Stephanie Kelly and Humeyra Pamuk; edited by Richard Valdmanis and Marguerita Choy