FOIA Documents Show Close EPA, White House, Congressional Contact on RFS

Source: By Rachel Gantz, OPIS • Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2015

U.S. EPA officials were in close touch with both White House and congressional representatives as it formulated the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2),
according to the second batch of documents EPA has turned over to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and reviewed by OPIS.

In October 2014, CREW filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that EPA was in violation of the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) by failing to provide the group with all requested RFS-related records. CREW requested all EPA records from Jan. 1, 2013, to present
related to the 2014 RFS. Prior to the lawsuit, CREW had received only one batch of e-mails, which OPIS reviewed in October 2014.

Earlier this week, CREW received its second batch of FOIA e-mails and OPIS has reviewed them, which were separated into six postings.

EPA’s proposed RFS 2014 rule, issued in November 2013, calls for nearly across-the-board cuts.

The documents mostly relate to the months leading up to (and after) the issuance of the 2013 final RFS (on Aug. 6, 2013) and the 2014 RFS proposal, including
October 2013 when a leaked version of the proposal circulated in the industry. EPA has not finalized the 2014 RFS targets, and recently said it plans to
propose the 2014, 2015 and 2016 targets this spring.

Among the tidbits from the second batch of FOIA documents:

–EPA was involved in seven high-level meetings among administration staff on formulating the 2014 RFS. The first meeting, on Aug. 7, 2013 (a day after EPA
issued the final 2013 RFS targets), involved EPA, DOE, USDA, White House, Council on Environmental Quality and National Economic Council staff, among
others. The next two meetings, on Sept. 16, 2013, and Sept. 23, 2013, involved the same agencies. EPA then held three more meetings, on Jan. 28, 2014, March
18, 2014, and June 18, 2014, with only EPA staff. The last meeting, on July 3, 2014, at the office of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, involved
numerous representatives from EPA, USDA and the White House, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

–An Aug. 14, 2013, e-mail from McCarthy to Tom Reynolds, associate administrator of EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, forwarding a Wall Street
Journal article that came out the same day on the only small refiner that received an exemption from the 2013 final RFS targets, Alon USA Energy’s Krotz
Springs plant in Louisiana. The article noted that Alon spent $60,000 on lobbying in the second quarter of 2013 solely related to the RFS and that Sen.
David Vitter (R-La.) had joined with other Louisiana lawmakers in sending a letter to President Obama to support the Krotz Springs exemption.

In McCarthy’s e-mail to Reynolds, she wrote “[t]his is just ridiculous,” with the subject line, “WSJ again on RFS.”

–An April 9, 2013, e-mail from Mary Frances Repko, senior policy adviser to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) to Laura Vaught, EPA associate
administrator for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, asking for “a technical look” on the RFS reform bill that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-
Va.) introduced the following day. No response was provided in the FOIA

–A July 23, 2014, e-mail from Repko to Vaught, forwarding an e-mail from Tom Hassenboehler, chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
regarding draft changes the committee was considering regarding HR 875, a bill by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would essentially repeal E15 approval
until more testing had been completed. The draft changes to the bill would have been massive: eliminating the section that would have revoked the E15 waiver,
increasing the timely availability of new renewable fuel pathways and setting the overall 2014 and 2015 RFS volumes at the level proposed by EPA for 2014. In
the e-mail, Repko said “[i]f you have staff looking at this, I’d welcome the same information they are providing to E&C [Energy and Commerce].”

No response was provided in the FOIA documents, although Sensenbrenner’s bill was never formally altered and died without action in the 113th Congress. In
January of this year, Sensenbrenner reintroduced the same version of the bill that he filed in the last Congress.

–An Aug. 6, 2013, e-mail from Greg Dotson, House Energy and Commerce staff director for then-Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), to a slew of EPA and fellow
committee staffers, requesting that EPA meet with the committee later that month to provide technical assistance regarding the RFS. A handful of committee
members were meeting in 2013 to work on how to reform the RFS. The e-mail outlines technical and policy questions committee staffers had, including what
were the effects of E15 on infrastructure and existing fleets, and whether additional policy tools were needed for addressing Renewable Identification
Number market problems.

–A Jan. 10, 2014, e-mail from Anne Simmons, House Agriculture Committee minority senior policy adviser to Vaught, asking if McCarthy had availability
the following week to discuss the proposed 2014 RFS rulemaking with a handful of Midwestern House Democrats. The meeting occurred on Jan. 15 and later that
month, seven Democratic Midwestern House members wrote to Obama, requesting a similar meeting at the White House.

–Shortly after the leaked 2014 RFS proposal draft, in October 2013, two lawmakers’ offices reached out to EPA to discuss the issue. In an Oct. 14, 2013,
e-mail to Vaught and Nichole Distefano, deputy associate administrator in EPA’s Office of Congressional Affairs; and Ali Nouri, the energy and agriculture
policy adviser to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), reached out for more information on the leaked draft. “Lots of folks are asking, so anything you tell me would be
appreciated,” Nouri wrote. No response was provided in the FOIA documents.

In a related exchange, on Oct. 22, 2013, Katy Siddall, senior legislative assistant to then-Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), reached out to then-EPA Senior
Agricultural Counselor Sarah Bittleman, to express the lawmaker’s concerns with the leaked draft. “I’m hoping to get an update for my boss on the plan to
release final numbers on the 2014 RVO numbers and find out if EPA has any position you can share on how closely the final numbers will be to the leaked
draft. The copy of the draft I have only contains the summary and not the full proposal, but it seems to rely heavily on the ‘blendwall,’ ” she explained. She
requested a phone conversation. No response was provided in the FOIA documents.

–An Aug. 13, 2013, e-mail from American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles Drevna to McCarthy, giving the agency a heads-up that his
group was filing a waiver petition for the 2014 RFS targets. “Assume this comes as no surprise,” Drevna wrote.

In response, McCarthy sent an e-mail the same day to Eric Wachter, director of EPA’s Office of the Executive Secretariat, asking him to “acknowledge the email
and thank him for the heads up.”