FARMFEST: Sen. Smith is a Strong Supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard; Fights Back Against “Small Refinery Waivers” at Every Turn

In Contrast, Jason Lewis Refuses to Stand Up to Trump on RFS, Supports Waivers Hurting Minnesota Farmers

For Immediate Release:
August 4, 2020

As Ranking Member of the Senate Rural Development and Energy Subcommittee, Sen. Tina Smith understands that we need to stand up for Minnesota farmers and the agriculture community. She is a strong supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), recognizing that thousands of Minnesotans are employed in the ethanol and biofuel industries. Meanwhile, Republican Senate candidate Jason Lewis has said that he hopes to personally “eliminate” the RFS one day.

Sen. Smith has stood up to President Trump and his administration granting “small refinergy waivers” that strain the market and hurt Minnesota farmers. But even while President Trump quadruples the number of waivers to refineries–benefitting the oil industry and Trump’s political allies–Lewis doesn’t have anything he’s vocally disagreed with President Trump on. This calls into question Lewis’ ability to be an independent voice for Minnesota.


Smith Helped Secure Over $100 Million In USDA Grants For Renewable Fuel. “The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced over $100 million in grants towards renewable fuels. The Democratic senators from Minnesota helped promote renewable fuel in Washington. (Source: Gray DC) Both Minnesota Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, said they helped to lead the bipartisan effort alongside Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. USDA’s Deputy Secretary Stephen Cepensky also provided a statement on the grants.” [GrayDC, 5/21/20]

Star Tribune: Smith Has “Been Outspoken Critic Of The Increase In Ethanol Waivers.” “Along with nine other Minnesota farmers and ethanol producers, Syverson flew in to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) increasing use of economic hardship waivers that cut the amount of ethanol small oil refineries are required to blend.  The move, Syverson and colleagues in the ethanol business contend, has reduced domestic consumption of ethanol for the first time in 20 years and left the country short of legally mandated national ethanol quotas.  […] On Capitol Hill, Minnesota’s senators, Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, have been outspoken critics of the increase in ethanol waivers.” [Star Tribune, 4/6/19]

HEADLINE: “Smith Applauds Court Ruling That EPA Improperly Granted Ethanol Waivers To Refineries.” [KFGO, 1/29/20]

  • Smith Said She Supported The Court’s Decision And Hoped It Would Influence Decision Making At The Federal Agency. “Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., in a news release Tuesday said she supported the court’s decision and hoped it would influence decision making at the federal agency. ‘I hope that this court decision will lead to the review of other waivers that may have been improperly granted in the same way,’ Smith said. ‘More broadly, I still hope that going forward the EPA will stop abusing the waiver system.’” [Brainerd Dispatch, 1/28/20]

Smith Signed A Letter Asking Trump Not To Appeal A Court Decision On The Small-Refinery Exemptions Program That Delivered A Major Victory To Biofuels Producers And Farmers. “A bipartisan group of United States senators asked President Donald Trump on Thursday, to not appeal a recent court decision on the small-refinery exemptions program. The lawmakers also asked Trump to require the EPA to not issue 2019 waivers if an appeal is filed, until a rehearing is completed.  On March 5, several news outlets reported the Trump administration planned to appeal a federal appeals court decision that delivered a major victory to biofuels producers and farmers who have for years fought the EPA’s expansion of the program. […] The letter was signed by […] Tina Smith […].” [Progressive Farmer, 3/20/20]

Smith Said She Pushed To End “Abuse Of The EPA Waiver System” Because It Hurt Farmers And Producers And Cost Jobs In Rural America. “Minnesota Senator Tina Smith says a federal court ruling that found the E-P-A improperly grant ethanol waivers to small oil refineries is good news for Minnesota farmers.  The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down three refinery exemptions following a challenge by renewable fuel groups. Refineries are required to blend a certain amount of renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply. The waivers reduce the volume of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels.  Smith said she’s pushed to end ‘abuse of the E-P-A waiver system’ because it has hurt farmers and producers and cost jobs in rural America.” [KFGO, 1/29/20]


Lewis: “As A Principled Conservative Who Favors Little Government Intervention And Supports Market-Driven Solutions, I Believe There Should Be A Day That The RFS Is No Longer Needed[.]” “Q. The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for the use of increasing amounts of ethanol to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Do you support the Renewable Fuel Standard?  A. Renewable fuels like Ethanol and bio-diesel are here to stay. What was once an effort to reduce dependence on fuel imports has now become not only common practice, but is becoming demand driven. More and more I hear from constituents who want to take advantage of the cheaper fuel options and I meet with retailers who want to sell renewable fuels to them. I think the RFS has served a principled purpose. It has brought about increased research and development in the agriculture space, in fuel and fuel additives, in the manufacturing of automobiles and efficiencies, and in reducing waste while decreasing standard pollution. The RFS allowed a new market to develop in a space that has been long dominated by incessant players. However, as a principled conservative who favors little government intervention and supports market-driven solutions, I believe there should be a day that the RFS is no longer needed and at that time renewable fuels will be able to stand on their own. Likewise, I think it is time the government not choose any winners and losers in the energy and fuel spaces. At the same time, we expect bio-fuels to prove themselves in the market, we also need to remove the incentives and subsidies given to every other type of energy production – possibly an impossible task in today’s political atmosphere. Therefore, until we stop propping up almost every other source of energy, the RFS should remain intact.” [MN Biofuels, Candidate Questionnaire, 10/10/18]

Lewis Refused To Name Something President Trump Had Done That He Opposed. MURPHY: “Is there anything that the President has done that you don’t endorse, that you don’t support?” LEWIS: “Well, good policy is good politics, and I agree with his policies, so why would I oppose anything? He’s had a great week: 225,000 new jobs; wages growing 3.3%; more women in the workforce now than men; the State of the Union was great; this impeachment witch-hunt is done, as even Dean Phillips agreed to. So I think it’s been really good for the President this week, and I think the American people and Minnesotans are coming around. Remember, in 2018, we warned folks that if the Democrats took the House, you wouldn’t have more tax reform, you wouldn’t have more deregulation to get labor and capital going; you would have obstruction and impeachment and investigation, and that’s all we’ve seen in the 116th.” [WCCO, Jason Lewis interview, 2/9/20] (VIDEO)

The Trump Administration Has Roughly Quadrupled The Number Of RFS Small Refinery Exemptions Since He Took Office In January 2017. “Farm groups, biofuel trade associations, and industry advocates responded in kind by pressuring the administration to stay the course. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a supporter of biofuels, spoke with President Donald Trump on Friday about the matter, a source familiar with the discussion said.  […]  Since the adoption of the RFS, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted waivers to small refiners if they prove compliance would cause them financial distress. The Trump administration has roughly quadrupled the number of exemptions since it took office in January 2017.” [Reuters, 3/5/20]

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