Schumer, Carper probe oil industry influence

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2018

Two top Senate Democrats want the Trump administration to explain whether its rollback of fuel economy rules came at the behest of the oil industry.

In a letter sent today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) asked the administration to spell out its ties to oil industry lobbyists.

The letter comes after a New York Times investigation found that Marathon Petroleum Corp., the largest refiner in the country, had engaged in a covert campaign to dial back the Obama-era clean car rules.

According to the Times, Marathon argued to lawmakers that the country is awash in a surplus of oil, so automakers needn’t be troubled to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Separately, the trade group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers reportedly created a front group called Energy4US that paid for Facebook ads urging consumers to support the rollback.

“It is no surprise that weakened fuel economy standards would increase … the amount of gasoline consumers would have to buy which would, in turn, increase oil industry profits,” Schumer and Carper wrote.

“Placing oil industry profits ahead of consumers, automobile industry workers and the environment is unacceptable,” they added. “We believe that weakened fuel economy standards would hurt U.S. economic and national security, undermine global efforts to combat climate change and create uncertainty for the automobile industry.”

The letter was sent to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler; Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; Energy Secretary Rick Perry; Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney; and Mary Neumayr, President Trump’s pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality.

The lawmakers asked the agencies to provide a detailed list of meetings and correspondence with oil industry lobbyists no later than Jan. 31, 2019.

Former EPA boss Scott Pruitt was scheduled to meet twice with Marathon executives, according to documents obtained by the Sierra Club following Freedom of Information Act litigation.

A copy of Wheeler’s private calendar obtained by E&E News doesn’t list any Marathon engagements, although EPA air chief Bill Wehrum’s private calendar does list a June meeting with the company regarding the renewable fuel standard.