Inside The Washington Beltway Update: Small Refinery Exemptions, Year-Round E15

For the second straight week, U.S. House Republicans held hearings designed to question Biden Administration activities and advanced Congressional Review Act (CRA) actions – a vehicle for lawmakers to undo recent agency rulemaking through a simple majority vote.

EMA was asked to comment on House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Congressman David Rouzer’s (R-NC) CRA on the Biden Administration’s Waters of the United States Rule.

EMA’s President Rob Underwood said: “The Energy Marketers of America (EMA) recognize the enormous impacts the Biden Administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule will place on small business energy marketers. In large part, WOTUS will determine whether costly land use restrictions will be imposed on new building or expansion projects such as adding renewable liquid fuel pumps and/or electric charging stations. EMA supports the joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) on the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule.”

However, not all administrative action is subject to a CRA.

Renewable Fuel Standard

On Thursday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of exemptions for small refineries under the Renewable Fuel Standard last year does not constitute a rule and therefore is not subject to the CRA.

Under the RFS program, refiners must blend minimum volumes of renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply but can petition the agency for an exemption.

EPA last year finalized a decision to deny 69 pending small refinery exemption petitions, arguing the refineries did not face disproportionate economic hardship caused by compliance with their volume obligations.

Year-Round Sale Of E15

Lawmakers continued efforts from late last year to pressure the Biden Administration to implement a rule effectively allowing the year-round sale of gasoline with 15 percent blends of ethanol.

In a letter led by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 31 Members of Congress urged the Administration to “swiftly and diligently” implement a regulation to allow year-round E15 sales.

The letter comes as several Midwest governors called on EPA to permanently remove a fuel volatility waiver, which would allow their states to sell E15 gasoline year-round.

Need Oil & Natural Gas

Finally, President Biden’s State of the Union address used the opportunity to tout historic federal funding made possible by passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

As expected, much of the President’s remarks focused on climate policies and his perspective on a solid economy.

However, President Biden appeared to go off-script when he said that the U.S. would need oil and natural gas for many years to come.

The President’s acknowledgements, which were not included in the prepared remarks circulated in advance, were made as he recounted a conversation with an oil executive who said “’well, we’re afraid you’re going to shut down all the oil wells and all the oil refineries. So, why should we invest in them?’ [President Biden responded], ‘we’re going to need oil for at least another decade and beyond.'”

The comments were met with boos from the Democratic side of the House while Republicans cheered, and even laughed, at the President recognizing the importance of the oil and gas industry.