Cassidy: U.S. oil refineries need an economic break

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) last week joined a GOP contingent of lawmakers to request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waive restrictions under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to help alleviate the financial burdens facing American oil refineries.

“We request your timely consideration of this request as obligated parties under the RFS struggle with muted demand for refined petroleum products and skyrocketing compliance costs,” wrote Sen. Cassidy and his colleagues in a March 25 letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “In turn, the states and regions in which these obligated parties operate stand to suffer the precise severe economic harm the waiver provision is designed to prevent.”

Among the 12 Republicans who joined Sen. Cassidy in signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Steve Daines (R-MT). They urged Regan to use the general waiver authority under Section 211 of the Clean Air Act to waive or significantly reduce the renewable volume obligations under the RFS and noted that eight refineries have shut down on the East Coast since 2009, including the region’s largest refinery, Philadelphia Energy Solutions in 2019. 

“This rash of closures has taken a financial toll on state and local budgets, however, the most devastating consequence has been the thousands of blue collar jobs that have been lost in the process,” the senators wrote, pointing out that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their challenges, resulting in a sharp decline in miles travelled by both American motorists and commercial air passengers.

Calling the waiver “necessary action,” Sen. Cassidy and his colleagues wrote that it would provide relief for states, help avert additional refinery closures, and minimize the ensuing economic ripple effects. “If relief is not provided in a timely manner, more refineries will be forced to shut down and place thousands of workers on the unemployment rolls just as the economy is beginning to roar back,” they wrote.

Sen. Cassidy and the lawmakers also wrote that renewable fuels for the 2020 compliance year have already been produced and blended, so a waiver would not present a risk to the biofuels industry. 

“We look forward to working with you to mitigate the harm caused by this ill-conceived mandate,” wrote the senators.