Whitfield wants Obama admin to study regs’ impact on price hikes

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A House Republican bill to be introduced later this week would require the president to establish an interagency panel to determine what is behind rising gas prices, focusing especially on the effect of an array of upcoming environmental rules, its key sponsor said yesterday.

The bill from Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) comes amid intensifying political jousting over the higher prices consumers are paying at the pump, which is expected to continue through the summer. Unlike much of the Republicans’ messaging over higher prices, the bill does not focus on the need for more domestic oil drilling or pipelines but presents itself as an attempt to get to the bottom of why it costs upward of $4 a gallon in parts of the country for drivers to fill their tanks.

“Every time we go home, we get hit up by gasoline prices, so I think it would be beneficial to the American people if we have a president appoint this task force to analyze the impact of a lot of things — worldwide prices and everything else — as well as regulations,” Whitfield told reporters yesterday in the Capitol.

The bill would target regulations from U.S. EPA, including the so-called Tier 3 requirements to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline, greenhouse gas emissions limits for oil refineries, renewable fuel standard requirements, a new air standard for ground-level ozone and other rules, Whitfield said. It also would examine broader trends in global oil markets that are causing prices to rise.

Most of those rules that would require new analysis have not yet been formally proposed, although industry groups have been warning for months that they would further increase prices at the pump. The American Petroleum Institute, for example, put out a study last year claiming that the yet-to-be-proposed Tier 3 rule would increase the price of a gallon of gas as much as 25 cents. EPA has said that study was based on inaccurate assumptions of what the rule would require, and agency officials have said the rule would add less than a penny to the price of a gallon of gas.

Whitfield is not ready to take EPA’s word for it, and he said his bill would require a six-month delay between the completion of a gas price-effects study and finalization of any new rules.

“We’re not going to rely on EPA, they’ve proven that they’re unreliable frequently, and frequently their analysis is not exactly correct,” he said yesterday.

Whitfield said he hopes to introduce his bill within the “next day or so” and that he and staffers are still in the process of identifying co-sponsors, who would likely come from the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Whitfield leads the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

While conceding that the bill’s chances in the upper chamber are slim — “The Senate never passes anything,” Whitfield quipped — the bill could at least serve as a signal to voters that lawmakers are trying to do something about gas prices.

“They want to know who’s going to be doing anything at all about this,” Whitfield said. “So at least this is the government taking a comprehensive look at factors affecting gasoline prices.”