Government

Grassley skeptical of oil refiner's 'hardship' claim

Report: Marathon asked EPA to exempt a unit from biofuel law

(File photo) Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks at a gathering sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa at the Marriott in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
(File photo) Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks at a gathering sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa at the Marriott in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Marathon Petroleum, which earlier this year reported revenues of nearly $19 billion, is a “far cry from hardship,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday about a news report that the refinery giant has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver exempting one of its operations from the nation’s biofuels laws.

That Marathon, the nation’s largest refiner by capacity, “even thinks it has a shot at receiving a ‘hardship’ waiver proves how broken this process is,” the Iowa Republican said in a conference call with reporters.

Reuters, citing two unnamed sources, said Marathon had requested the waiver for one of its refineries in 2017, but it was unclear if the EPA had approved it.

After seeing the news report, Grassley tweeted: “NOTE TO EPA definition of hardship: a condition that is difficult to endure, suffering, deprivation, oppression / surely Marathon doesn’t qualify for a waiver They had a net income of $3.4B in 2017 BILLIONS IN PROFITS ISNT HARDSHIP”


Earlier this month, Grassley suggested he might ask for the resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “because I’m done playing around” with the agency issuing biofuel waivers to individual refineries owned by big petroleum companies.

The Renewable Fuel Standard sets a statutory volume obligation for conventional biofuels of 15 billion gallons annually. Grassley argued that the EPA’s “very liberal” granting of waivers has reduced the actual use of ethanol to about 13.8 billion gallons. The 15 billion gallon standard is “what Congress intended. That’s the spirit of the law,” he said.

The waivers also violate President Donald Trump’s promise to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association in January 2016 to keep the annual ethanol mandate at the 15 billion gallon level that Congress had called for in 2007.

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He characterized granting a hardship waiver to an oil company with net income of $3.4 billion an “embarrassing loophole” that should be fixed by Congress.

Major refiners Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. also have asked for relief for smaller units, but it is unclear if their requests were granted, Reuters reported.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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