(Adds background, details about the waivers)
WASHINGTON, March 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted five of the seven outstanding small refinery hardship waivers requested for the 2017 compliance year under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, data on its website showed on Thursday, bringing the year’s total approvals to 37.
The agency has also received two more petitions for the hardship waivers for compliance year 2018, bringing the total number of applications filed to 39.
The RFS 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 vastly expanded the program under President Donald Trump, granting waivers to plants of oil majors including Exxon and Chevron, drawing ire from the corn industry, a key Trump constituency.
EPA’s fresh approvals are likely to infuriate ethanol producers who have long complained about the exemptions, saying EPA was overusing the waivers and killing demand for corn-based ethanol. Rivaling oil industry says that is not the case.
EPA’s web site on Thursday showed there were 2 more petitions for 2017 compliance year still pending. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Jarrett Renshaw Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)