U.S. Senator Tina Smith Calls Supreme Court Decision on Renewable Fuels Very Disappointing, A Potential Blow to Economy Across Rural America

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7/1/21]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) called the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that makes it easier for oil refineries to get waivers to avoid meeting Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements “very disappointing,” saying it could set back efforts in rural America to recover from recent economic blows.

The vote overturned a 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that cracked down on the abuse of small refinery economic hardship waivers. During the Trump Administration, the granting of these waivers spiked by over 300 percent, which led to a steep drop in corn used for ethanol production. 

I want Minnesota’s rural communities, farmers, clean energy producers, and agribusinesses to thrive,” said Sen. Smith. A strong Renewable Fuel Standard is key to jobs and economic development across rural America.  I’m very disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision—it’s the last thing farm country needs, especially since we were just seeing communities recover after taking successive blows from COVID-19, low commodity prices, trade disruptions and inclement weather. I’m going to urge the Biden Administration to champion a strong RFS for America’s farmers and biofuels industry.

Sen. Smith has long fought for a strong RFS, both in Washington and during her time as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. In the Senate Sen. Smith pressed top energy and agriculture officials in the Trump Administration to end policies that reduce the amounts of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels that are blended into the nation’s gasoline supply. Sen. Smith also led a 2019 letter pressing then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to stop abusing oil refinery waivers, pointing out that the granting of waivers had increased by 370 percent compared to the previous administration, with “small refinery” waivers going to large oil companies for the first time. Later, Sen. Smith joined several colleagues in submitting testimony for the Congressional Record calling for an end to waiver abuse. Sen. Smith and some of her colleagues sent a letter this year to EPA Administrator Regan asking him to uphold the Renewable Volume Obligations and not give exemptions to the blending requirements for small refineries. Sen. Smith is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act