Earlier this month, a slate of union leaders, refinery workers, local elected officials, and small business owners from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower its proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2023, 2024, and 2025, under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
During the agency’s two-day virtual public hearing, these voices underscored how the agency’s proposed blending levels, as they currently stand, are set at unachievable rates and fail to fix the program’s broken Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) compliance system. As EPA heard from the numerous testimonies throughout the hearing, these unsustainable RIN prices are costing independent refiners hundreds of millions of dollars per year—more than all other operating costs combined. In fact, the RFS has essentially acted as a hidden gas tax on consumers, adding an extra 30 cents per gallon.
Throughout the hearing, several refinery employees spoke to the vitality of our nation’s independent refiners and the opportunities they provide for countless individuals and their families in the Philadelphia and Toledo regions.
Among them was Sharon Watkins of Monroe Energy, who highlighted the numerous opportunities that refineries have provided for hardworking men and women across Pennsylvania—including her daughter, who is now a fourth-generation refinery worker.
“Independent refineries nationwide are facing an existential threat caused by the RFS. What started as a well-intentioned program aimed at reducing our dependency on foreign oil by increasing our use of domestic renewable fuels has morphed into a program different than Congress intended.”
John Stott of PBF Energy’s Delaware City Refining Company spoke to the impact the Delaware City refinery had on meeting fuel demands during the Colonial Pipeline hack in 2021. Without this critical facility, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania would have all experienced significant fuel shortages.
“There would be a full-blown fuel supply crisis right now if there were any fewer refineries on the East Coast,” warned Stott.
Labor leaders like Delaware Building Trades’ James Maravelias took a strong stance against EPA’s proposal, building off prior warnings that the East Coast might inevitably face diminished refining capacity due to the costs associated with the RFS.
“EPA needs to stop playing Russian Roulette with the nation’s fuel supply and union jobs. The Agency acknowledges its proposed ethanol mandate cannot even be met with ethanol but is still proposing a grossly unachievable requirement; and the highest one ever,” said Maravelias.
Other Delawareans explained how the sky-high cost of RINs is putting the long-term financial viability of these vital facilities at risk.
“It is widely documented that skyrocketing RIN costs have been a significant contributor to at least 30 percent of the more than one million barrels per day of refining capacity the nation has lost since 2019,” shared James Maravelias, President of the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council. “This lost capacity is both the driving factor behind high pump prices, as well as the reason we are facing a potential heating oil supply crisis in the Northeast.”
Scott Hayes of the Toledo Refining Company, part of PBF Energy, emphasized the impact that even temporary refinery closures have had across the Midwest and urged EPA to lower the RVO.
“The Midwest is uniquely constrained as evidenced by recent gas spikes due to temporary shutdowns of refineries in Toledo and Indiana resulting in prices so high the state of Michigan declared a state of emergency in August and waived some fuel specifications in response.”
Charles Crane, a second-generation union member and president of United Steelworkers Local 4-898, reiterated the call for EPA to lower its RVO.
“EPA needs to lower the 15.25-billion-gallon proposed ethanol requirement for 2023 through 2025 to 13.5 billion gallons for each year…This will bring down RIN prices to a point that protects union jobs and domestic fuel supplies and bring stability back to our region.”
In his testimony, Brendan Williams of PBF Energy urged the agency to address our nation’s diminished refining capacity by lowering the conventional biofuel requirement. Williams specifically noted that even the agency has admitted the ethanol requirement cannot be met using ethanol:
“Recent history has shown high RIN costs contribute to decreased overall petroleum refining capacity, without generating sufficient renewable fuel volumes to replace lost petroleum fuel production,” testified Williams. “EPA can and should avoid such a situation from materializing by lowering the conventional biofuel requirement to reflect EIA consumption projections, while also advancing other RIN cost containment options.”
Josh Williams, who represents Northwest Ohio through District 41 of the Ohio House of Representatives, joined the chorus of voices urging EPA to lower the RVO to a level no higher than 13.9 billion gallons.
“If this does not happen, 1,200 jobs and $5.4 billion in annual economic output that the Toledo Refining Company contributes is at risk. Being located in what some refer to as the “rust belt,” we treasure the ability to contribute to the energy demand of the region while employing individuals with many blue-collar, union jobs that the refinery has provided for 135 years. These jobs are scarce, and we need to hold on to them.”
Jenn Frazier, Trainer Borough Council President in Pennsylvania, shared the critical impact the Monroe Energy refinery has on her local community and warned what they stand to lose if Monroe continues to be burdened with high RIN costs.
“Through the years, Monroe has partnered with our schools to provide educational trips, volunteer STEM tutoring for students of all ages, and to provide guidance on setting up a STEM program at our high school. Additionally, they sponsor community events, fill our food pantries and so much more. So, as you can see, they are an integral and indispensable community partner. Monroe, like other independent refiners have been severely burdened for years by the high cost of RIN credits caused by the broken RFS system.”
Business and Industry Leaders
This proposal has already raised serious concerns as it misses the mark on reforms to the RFS’ compliance system. If more of our nation’s independent refineries are forced to close, thousands of refinery jobs and the nation’s energy security will hang in the balance.
The EPA heard from local business and industry leaders who called on the agency to lower its proposed ethanol blending levels to 13.9 billion gallons per year. This adjustment would match the government’s own projected ethanol demand, which reflects vehicle and engine restraints.
“These Northeast refineries are critical and indispensable suppliers of the transportation fuels the growing manufacturing, distribution and logistics economies of Southeastern Pennsylvania rely on,” testified Katie Hetherington Cunfer of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. “The ability for businesses in our region to source fuel from nearby regional suppliers creates competitive advantages and ensures that businesses and consumers have consistent access to reasonably priced fuel.”
The chorus of voices from across industries made their point abundantly clear. EPA must revise the proposed levels to stop soaring RIN prices and protect thousands of high-quality, family-sustaining refining jobs.
We must protect domestic energy production capabilities, both for energy security and the environment; the United States energy industry is among the cleanest and safest in the world.
- Scott Hayes, PBF Energy
- Brendan Williams, PBF Energy
- Jose Dominquez, PBF Energy
- John Stott, PBF Energy
- Sharon Watkins, Monroe Energy
- Ronald Pierce, Monroe Energy
- James Dietz, Monroe Energy
- Ronald Corbit, Monroe Energy
- Charles Craine, USW Local 4-898
- Andy Swaim, Ohio Chemistry Technology Council
- Dawn T. Christen, Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council
- Joshua Abernathy, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers LU 8
- James Maravelias, Delaware Building Trades
- Steven Kratz, PA Chemical Industry Council
- Brandon Sehlhorst, City of Toledo, OH
- Dean Monske, Regional Growth Partnership
- Josh Williams, OH-41
- Stephanie Kromer, Ohio Oil & Gas Association
- Katie Hetherington Cunfer, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance
- Jim Savage, United Steelworkers
- Albert Green, Ironworkers Local Union 451
- Ken Gomeringer, United Steelworkers
- Kevin Sunday, PA Chamber of Business and Industry
- Anselm Sauter, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
- Dennis Hart, Chemistry Council of NJ
- Lee Sanders, American Bakers Association
- Carl A. Marrara, PA Manufacturers’ Association
- Jennifer Frazier, Trainer Borough Council President
- DeVon Crawford, United Steelworkers Local 10-234
- Justin Von Donley, United Steelworkers Local 912
- Anthony Moss, Laborers Local Union 413
- William F. Adams, IBEW 654
- Hilary Chebra, Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey
- Lisa Gaffney, Riverfront Alliance of Delaware County
- Jondavid Longo, Mayor of Slippery Rock, PA
- John Kane, PA State Senator