Exclusive: Oil giant Exxon secured U.S. hardship waiver from biofuel laws - sources
By Humeyra Pamuk and Chris Prentice WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Exxon Mobil Corp a financial hardship waiver this year temporarily freeing its Montana refinery from U.S.
By Humeyra Pamuk and Chris Prentice
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Exxon Mobil Corp
Exxon, which reported earnings of almost $20 billion in 2017, became the largest known company to be awarded a such a waiver by the Trump administration's EPA under a programme meant to protect the smallest fuel facilities from going bust.
Farm state lawmakers have complained that the hardship waivers are being overused in a way that is killing demand for corn-based ethanol, and they were likely to criticise the waiver awarded to one of the world's biggest and most profitable companies.
The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel each year or buy compliance credits from competitors that do. But it allows the EPA to exempt plants of less than 75,000 barrels per day if they show complying would cause financial hardship.
The EPA has vastly expanded the programme under President Donald Trump, but is reviewing how it handles further requests as it seeks to balance the competing interests of refiners and ethanol producers.
Exxon's waiver was granted before the review began, and covers its 60,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Billings, Montana, for the 2017 compliance period, said the sources, who asked not to be named.
EPA spokesman Michael Abboud declined to comment on whether the refinery received a waiver, but pointed out that the waiver programme requires the agency only to consider the financial situation of the refinery and not its owner.
"This was a decision Congress made when drafting the Renewable Fuel Standard and EPA implements the small refinery exemption programme consistent with that explicit direction," he told Reuters in an emailed statement.
ExxonMobil declined to comment.
Reuters reported earlier this year that Andeavor
The EPA keeps the identities of companies receiving waivers secret, arguing the information is business sensitive. But the agency recently began publishing the numbers of exemptions granted. It said it awarded 29 exemptions to small refineries in 2018 for the 2017 compliance year so far, up from 19 for 2016 and just seven for 2015.
WIND OF CHANGE?
The EPA has attributed the programme's expansion mainly to a lawsuit brought by two oil refiners that challenged its denial of their waiver requests under President Barack Obama's administration.
A federal judge ruled last year the EPA was using too narrow a test to evaluate applications. The EPA, which relies partly on advice from the Department of Energy, has asked DOE to review its scoring system for applications before considering additional waiver requests.
Biofuel backers have argued that the waiver programme's expansion was politically driven by former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a supporter of the fossil fuels industry who sought ways to lower compliance costs for energy companies.
Pruitt resigned amid a slew of ethics scandals last July and has been replaced in the interim by his deputy Andrew Wheeler.
Trump has said he was likely to nominate Wheeler to serve as the permanent EPA chief. That would require U.S. Senate confirmation, and several powerful pro-corn Senators such as Iowa's Chuck Grassley are agitating for measures to protect ethanol demand.
"I suspect Wheeler would be more invested in maintaining the reputation of the agency," a biofuels industry participant said, asking not to be named. "He also would not want to upset people who will have a say in his confirmation."
(Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Richard Valdmanis and David Gregorio)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.