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‘Good news’: Iowa ethanol, bio-diesel industries react to EPA exemptions call

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WEST DUBUQUE, Iowa. ----- Federal regulators with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency handed a victory to Iowa corn farmers and biodiesel makers on Monday.

By refusing to permit a group of petroleum refiners in 14 states to ditch requirements to blend ethanol and biodiesel into retail fuel, these biofuel producers maintain a greater access to petroleum markets.

"[The announcement] is definitely good news for everybody in Iowa. Good news for the whole country," said Lance Lillibridge, a district director for the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Grant Kimberley, executive director for the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said the EPA's requirements call for "a certain amount of gallons of fuel, ethanol and biodiesel," to be "blended into the gasoline and diesel markets."

These waivers, which various petroleum refiners had applied for retro-actively in 2017-2018, would have allows those refiners to not be bound by the EPA's biofuel standard.

State biofuels groups say that some of the refineries that applied for so-called "small refinery exemption waivers" didn't need to take advantage of these credits because they were actually very large refineries.

"Single digits, you know, technically small refineries... actually qualified for that. Up until around 2017, there were a small number that applied for those waivers," Kimberley said.

Havesting corn (Photo: Pixabay)

Rep. Abby Finkenauer, Sen. Joni Ernst and others within a "bipartisan" group of U.S. congresspeople are still calling on accountability watchdogs with the GAO to investigate. In a Tuesday statement, Finkenauer expresses skepticism for the EPA's quote, "secretive process for approving small refinery exemption waivers." How that will turn out is yet to be seen.

Biofuel industry figures who spoke with KWWL Tuesday all agreed that the announcement was a good sign for the continued role Iowa plays at the pumps.

"They talk about climate change so much, one of the best ways to fight climate change is to have clean energy," Lillibridge said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley Tuesday praised President Trump's current EPA administration for the move, calling it a "breakthrough" in an Instagram video.

Sen. Joni Ernst in a statement Tuesday called the move "a significant step forward for Iowa’s renewable fuel industry and another example of President Trump honoring his commitment to Iowa farmers." 

AJ Capuano

Dubuque bureau reporter, KWWL

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