Following in the footsteps of the success of Midwest lawmakers last week who pressured President Donald Trump’s administration to reiterate its support for the Renewable Fuel Standard, a group of senators from oil-producing states are attempting to replicate that success.
The biofuels industry scored a big win on the RFS when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed course on proposals to cut total volumes in 2018 and to change the way the biofuels credits system works.
This week, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have held up the confirmation of USDA nominee and Iowa native Bill Northey, Politico reported. Lee released his hold, but Cruz still had a hold on Northey’s nomination as of late Wednesday, Politico reported.
Last week Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, threatened to hold up EPA nominees to convince the agency to reverse course on the RFS. Northey has wide bipartisan support.
Essentially, the outcry from ethanol groups and Midwest lawmakers during the past two weeks is what brought the RFS concerns to the attention of the president, and led EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to back down from the proposals.
On Wednesday, Cruz, Lee and seven other Republican senators sent a letter to Trump asking for a meeting to discuss the potential for RFS reform. Sens. John Cornyn, Texas, Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Flake, Arizona, and James Inhofe and James Lankford, Oklahoma, also signed the letter.
Last week Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf asked the EPA for an RFS waiver, in response to refiner concerns about the high costs of compliance with the law, here.
In the letter to Trump on Wednesday, the nine GOP senators said the RFS has led to lost jobs in oil refining.
“Hard-working Americans whose jobs depend on a strong independent refining industry deserve the opportunity for you to hear directly from their representatives on the potential impact of policies that could kill their jobs and destroy a critical component of our nation’s economy,” the letter said.
“If your administration does not make adjustments or reforms on matters related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, it will result in a loss of jobs around the country, particularly in our states. For example, a recent study found that if U.S. independent refiners go out of business, an estimated 75,000 to 150,000 American jobs are potentially at risk.”
Last week, ethanol interest groups and Midwest lawmakers reminded the president of his campaign promises on ethanol and support for the RFS, in raising concerns about the EPA proposals.
In the letter to Trump on Wednesday, the senators critical of the RFS pointed to the story of union workers in Pennsylvania who “enthusiastically support you” will reportedly be affected by the high RFS compliance costs.
“Philadelphia Energy Solutions faces ever-increasing RIN prices (renewable identification numbers) and last year was forced to lay off 70 workers,” the letter said.
“Ryan O’Callaghan, president of the United Steelworkers Local 10-1, who reportedly has 692 members remaining at Philadelphia Energy Solutions, voiced his fears that they are being left behind.
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“Mr. O’Callaghan’s fears are shared by Americans all across the country who depend on a strong refining industry for their livelihoods and who supported Republicans this past year so that they would have a Congress and a president who would stand up for them.”
The nine GOP senators then requested a meeting with the president and the senators who lobbied the administration on behalf of the ethanol industry, within the next three weeks, “to discuss a pathway forward toward a mutually agreeable solution that will also save refining jobs and help unleash an American energy renaissance.”
Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said in a statement to DTN the senators’ request comes at a time when major refiners are seeing an uptick in profits.
“These refiners are posting record profits from high-priced gasoline sales during the hurricanes, and they still want a handout from President Trump,” Coleman said.
“The White House already announced that it plans to protect rural communities and farmers who rallied around Trump’s campaign by rejecting changes to the RFS, just as the president promised. At some point, refinery executives need to find a way to content themselves with getting just about every other concession they have asked for from the EPA.”
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN