Biofuels groups upset with changes

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to grant Renewable Fuel Standard waivers for about two dozen small refineries has riled biofuels organizations, with one in Iowa saying on Friday that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is "essentially making a liar" out of President Donald Trump and his pledge to support the law.

The industry reaction comes in the aftermath of a Reuters report that the EPA had granted waivers to 25 small refineries on their RFS obligations that require ethanol in gasoline.

Already, Pruitt was at odds with farm state groups and lawmakers over the RFS. The EPA administrator has been critical of the law, which also has drawn efforts by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others to scale it back.

News of the EPA's waivers set off a new round of complaints. And, with a meeting expected at the White House on Monday over the RFS involving the president, Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, farm groups were seeking help.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said in anticipation of the meeting Friday that any attempt to waive RFS requirements or cap the price of compliance credits "will be viewed as nothing less than a declaration of war on rural America."

The association, in a letter to Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, estimated Friday that the EPA's waivers have resulted in a loss of a billion gallons of biofuel demand.

The group also says they exceed the waivers given during the Bush and Obama administrations.

"Pruitt has repeatedly and relentlessly sought ways to subvert the president's RFS promises and to undermine, if not destroy, the effectiveness of the program," the association said, arguing that the waivers exceed those given during the Bush and Obama administrations.

"Scott Pruitt is essentially making a liar out of President Trump," the group added. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to support the RFS.

EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman responded that the criteria for waivers hasn't changed from previous administrations.

"EPA follows a long-standing, established process where the Agency uses a (Department of Energy) analysis to inform decisions about refiner exemptions/waivers. These waivers are only considered for refineries that submit applications and that are below the blending threshold," Bowman said.

Earlier this week, Grassley said the Andeavor waiver could be a violation of the RFS. And on Friday, he issued a statement laying out some of the difficulties facing rural areas, including low commodity prices, the threat of Chinese tariffs and the NAFTA renegotiation that some are worried might surrender some of the gains agriculture made from the deal.

Undermining the RFS, Grassley said Friday, would deal a "massive blow to rural America." Instead, he urged Trump to authorized expanded sale of E15 ethanol, a longtime goal of biofuel groups. That, Grassley said, would help farmers and refineries by lowering RFS compliance costs.

Ernst also said Friday that she is "fully committed to protecting the RFS and will not support anything that will harm" farmers or the jobs tied to the renewable fuels industry.