Opening Statement of Ranking Member Capito for Hearing on Renewable Fuel Standard Program

Source: By Senator Capito, Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee • Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to examine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

Last month, Ranking Member Capito led several of her colleagues in a letter asking the EPA to reconsider its proposed blanket denial of small refinery exemptions (SRE) under the RFS program as this runs counter to congressional intent under the Clean Air Act. Click here to read the full letter.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s nice to be back.

“I want to thank you for calling today’s hearing, and I also want to thank our witnesses for joining us here today.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard, as the chairman defined it—known as RFS, is an important topic that our committee has not held a hearing on since 2016.

“I think the long gap between hearings speaks to the intricacies of the program, but it’s also the fact that the political fault lines between opponents, supporters, and would-be reformers do not always align with the two parties.

“For my part, there are a few issues I want to cover today during this hearing: small refinery exemptions, the changes to the program coming in 2022, and the need for accountability from EPA’s Office of Air, including the need for a nominee to head it.

“I would like to highlight my concern about the two actions the EPA recently announced.

“First, in December, the agency proposed an all-time high Renewable Volume Obligation for 2022 that does not really reflect market realities. And I’d be interested to hear what our panel has to say about that.

“I am concerned that this volume obligation is going to raise costs, at a time when gasoline is high, impacting American consumers and the economy.

“Second, also in December, EPA also announced a proposal to deny all pending small refinery exemptions, which provide critical relief to small refineries experiencing financial hardships imposed by the RFS program.

“This action runs counter to congressional intent under the Clean Air Act.

“EPA’s proposed action will negatively impact Ergon, a small refinery located in northern West Virginia. Ergon has already won two court cases in the Fourth Circuit finding that the EPA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in denying its small refinery exemption petitions.

“But, Ergon is just one of a number of small refineries around the country that had petitions pending before the EPA.

“This unprecedented and drastic step to propose a blanket denial of outstanding small refinery hardship petitions is especially puzzling as we see increasing gasoline prices and several small refinery closures around the nation, eliminating good-paying jobs in some of our rural communities as well.

“Ultimately, this proposal will only lead to more litigation and increased uncertainty under the RFS, with American consumers bearing the costs amid already record high inflation.

“I have urged EPA to reconsider its proposal to provide much needed relief for small refineries and the families and businesses being harmed by elevated fuel costs.

“I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses on this issue.

“Next, I would like to touch on an issue that I believe many of us agree upon, and that is that our liquid fuels are still important.

“I can tell you firsthand, liquid fuel is not going away anytime soon in a rural state like West Virginia.

“Forcing a single-technology approach, such as insisting on 100% electric vehicles, disregards this important fact that different communities and businesses have different needs for transportation solutions.

“It may be true that electric vehicle sales are slowly but surely increasing, but liquid fuel is not used exclusively in passenger vehicles.

“It is also important for heavy-duty trucks and our airplanes, to name a few.

“So, one issue I would also like to hear about today is: How important are liquid fuels? And, do you think liquid fuels are going away anytime soon?

“This conversation on liquid fuel is especially important as the RFS program enters a new phase next year.

“When Congress enacted the RFS, annual volumes were included for the calendar years 2006 through 2022. But, after 2022, EPA has the power to determine the the annual volume amounts.

“And, the chairman pointed out that we are already not hitting the amounts that we are supposed to be hitting as it is now.

“EPA is expected to issue a rule to do just that sometime this year.

“However, I have concerns about how EPA plans to take action on this program without anyone in a Senate-confirmed role in the office that handles the RFS Program.

“The Office of Air and Radiation at EPA—this is the office that is in charge of air emissions and climate issues, and it handles the renewable fuel standard and many other complex regulatory programs.

“Yet, we have been waiting for more than a year for the administration and the president to name a nominee to that office. I’ve talked about this more than once in our committee.

“Instead, Principal Deputy Administrator Joe Goffman has served as the lead political official in the office, in regular communication with his former boss, the climate czar in the White House, Gina McCarthy.

“No incoming administration has waited this long to send up a nominee for this critical position since its creation. The previous record was 260 days set by President Clinton.

“If EPA is deciding important actions related to the future of the RFS program, the administration needs to send up an Office of Air and Radiation nominee who can be accountable to Congress.

“With that Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.”

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