Noem Poet tour

On a tour of the Poet ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D., in October 2018, is Poet CEO Jeff Broin, left, plant manager Dean Frederickson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and then-Congresswoman Kristi Noem.

Govs. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Tim Walz of Minnesota sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the agency to honor President Donald Trump’s commitment to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Last month, Trump directed the EPA to restore the biofuels lost when EPA granted excessive small refinery waivers. In the past three years, the EPA has issued 85 small refinery exemptions, representing a loss of over 4.3 billion gallons of biofuels.

The president ordered EPA to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard that requires 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply, beginning in 2020. He also directed EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take steps to address barriers to the use of E15 and to expand ethanol’s infrastructure.

However, the EPA issued a proposed rule that would use a three-year average of the Department of Energy’s recommendations for exempted volumes, rather than the actual gallons waived by EPA. As the EPA’s exemptions have been roughly double the DOE recommended amount, finalizing this rule would make it unlikely that the EPA would meet a blending requirement of 15 billion gallons.

In their comments to Wheeler, Walz and Noem said the proposed rule “demonstrates that EPA is oblivious to the harm it has caused” and is ignoring the agreement Trump reached with the nation’s biofuels community.

“President Trump’s announcement to expand ethanol production would be an incredible shot in the arm for South Dakota’s farmers. It would increase the demand for corn and improve long-term agriculture stability,” Noem said. “This announcement is meaningless, though, if the EPA fails to honor the president’s direction and shirks its responsibility to American farmers. The EPA’s recently proposed rules fail to fix the problems they previously caused and once again do not enforce ethanol production requirements. I strongly urge Administrator Wheeler and EPA leadership to reconsider this approach and utilize actual exempted gallon data to ensure the support of farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and throughout the nation.”

“EPA chose to approve these waivers at a time when farmers and biofuel producers were already hurt by adverse weather conditions, flagging export market opportunities, and chronically low commodity prices. Approving these waivers when the agriculture economy was struggling represented a callous disregard for the economic interest our nation’s farmers,” Noem and Walz wrote in the letter.

The governors urged the agency to use a three-year rolling average of actual exempted gallons as the basis to estimate 2020 exempted volumes.

Noem is vice chairwoman of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition, a group of 21 governors who believe that increasing the use of clean-burning biofuels can decrease the nation’s dependence on imported energy resources, improve public health and the environment, and stimulate state economies.

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.