RFA extends ethanol invite as EPA head visits oil refinery

By Renewable Fuels Association | July 29, 2019

The Renewable Fuels Association has invited U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to visit an ethanol plant as a follow-up to his tour of a Pennsylvania oil refinery. Wheeler was scheduled to visit Monroe Energy’s plant in Trainer, Penn., today at the invitation of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who just last week filed legislation in Congress to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Administrator Wheeler will certainly get an earful of myths and misinformation about the RFS, RINs, and small refinery exemptions during his visit to the Monroe Energy crude oil refinery,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Therefore, we felt it was necessary to give the Administrator an opportunity to hear the other side of the story, and we hope he balances his visit to Monroe with a tour of an RFA member ethanol plant and discussion with plant workers and local farmers.”

The Monroe facility, owned by Delta Air Lines, refines 185,000 barrels of crude oil per day. At this size, the facility does not meet the statutory definition of a “small refinery” and thus may not petition EPA for a “disproportionate economic hardship” exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard.  In 2015, Monroe notched record operating income when RIN prices were three times higher than current levels. And earlier this month, parent company Delta announced record revenue of $12.5 billion in its second quarter.

“During your visit, you likely will hear the refiners’ perspective on the Renewable Fuel Standard, and they will no doubt encourage you to continue EPA’s unprecedented use of small refinery exemptions,” Cooper wrote in his invitation letter. “Even though Monroe Energy is not a ‘small refinery,’ Delta officials will certainly argue that the company has benefited from the waivers because they resulted in a significant collapse in RIN prices. Of course, your agency’s own analysis has concluded that the financial health of refineries is not affected by RIN prices, stating that, ‘…obligated parties, including small entities, are generally recovering the cost of acquiring the credits necessary for compliance with the RFS standards through higher sales prices of the petroleum products they sell.’”

Cooper is hopeful that Wheeler will come and learn more about the challenges the ethanol industry is facing. While Wheeler was briefly at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) in June as President Trump made an appearance there to celebrate completion of the year-round E15 rule, he was not able to tour the facility with President Trump, Cooper, and SIRE CEO Mike Jerke.

“I know you are a fair-minded individual who is looking for the right answers to the policy questions surrounding ethanol and the RFS,” he wrote. “I also believe you would benefit greatly from hearing from ethanol plant workers and farmers about the impacts of your agency’s decisions on the RFS.”