Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held the virtual public hearing for its proposed biofuel blending volumes for 2020, 2021 and 2022 under the agency’s federal biofuel mandate – the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The hearing lasted several hours and featured testimony from a diverse array of stakeholders ranging from refinery workers to local representatives and leaders of organized labor, who spoke directly to the importance of America’s independent refining industry, underscoring the severe consequences for independent refiners and the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs the industry supports if the current proposal remains unchanged.
Scott Hayes with the Toledo Refining Company, part of PBF Energy, and Dawn Christen, representing the Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council, spoke to the economic impact the independent refining industry has long had on their community in Toledo, Ohio.
“We [the Toledo Refining Company] contribute $5.4 billion of economic output to the region,” said Hayes. “We have about 1200 employees at the facility, many union and skilled trades, and for each direct job, IMPLAN projects a 16 job per multiplier.”
Christen later elaborated on how the Toledo-based refinery is an economic driver for the Midwest. “[The Toledo Refining Company] provides 15 percent of the entire state's fuel and contributes $5.2 billion in total direct and indirect economic benefits to Northwest Ohio,” said Christen. “When refineries invest in new capital or major maintenance projects, they employ thousands of our skilled craft workers. The Toledo Refining Company has been a committed partner of employing Northwest Building Trades Council skilled craft workers for its maintenance and turnaround work.”
EPA later heard testimony from several employees at Monroe Energy’s refinery in Trainer PA, who emphasized the opportunities the refinery has provided for countless individuals and families throughout the tri-state area, for decades.
Among them was Joshua Bower, a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps who now works as a contract specialist on the Maintenance team at Monroe Energy’s facility and who shared his own story, reinforcing the importance of the region’s independent refining sector to veterans like him.
“Any company will benefit from hiring a veteran, and my story is just one of many showing how Monroe recognizes this. Nearly 11 percent of Monroe’s employees are either former or current military service members and they have a program which focuses on hiring veterans called Military-to-Monroe,” said Bower. “But all of this could disappear for me and my fellow team members if the RFS is not reformed in a meaningful manner soon.”
An array of organized labor leaders also took to the virtual podium to underscore just how much their respective organizations rely on the nation’s independent refining sector.
“Refinery jobs provide life-changing opportunities that benefit not only our members directly, but many more who rely on our facility for their own livelihoods, including other union members throughout the country,” said DeVon Crawford, Chairman of the United Steelworkers Local Union 10-234 and a Monroe Energy employee.
This sentiment was echoed by Ken Gomeringer, a member of the United Steelworkers International Union and an employee of PBF Energy in Delaware City, Delaware, who discussed how the RFS has already forced some area refineries to close their doors for good. He urged the EPA to lower its proposed 2022 volumes as a means of lowering Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices and preventing further closures.
“The EPA needs to lower the 15-billion-gallon proposed ethanol requirement for 2022 to 13.8 billion gallons which reflects the maximum amount of ethanol that the fuel supply chain can handle given the engine and infrastructure constraints,” said Gomeringer. “This will bring down RINs prices to a point that protects good paying/family sustaining union jobs and domestic fuel supplies, while reducing consumer cost.”
Bill Adams, President and Assistant Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 654, which since 1939 has served southern Delaware and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania, reiterated Gomeringer’s concerns pertaining to the EPA’s proposed 2022 blending volumes.
“Local refineries are key partners for our union and regularly provide high-quality work opportunities for many of our nearly 700 members,” said Adams. “The EPA’s proposed RVO directly threatens their viability, along with the countless other industries across the supply chain, including others that employ IBEW members. This is why it’s imperative that the EPA takes action before it’s too late.”
Mike Hackendorn, Vice President of the Delaware Building & Construction Trades and Business Manager for Local 74 for the Plumbers and Pipefitters whose both grandfathers and father also worked at the same refinery – elaborated on the pivotal role that America’s independent refineries play in bolstering the nation’s energy security and delivering affordable fuel to consumers at the pump.
“EPA needs to reduce the 2022 ethanol volume requirement by over a billion gallons in the final rule so the ethanol requirements are no greater than 13. 8 billion gallons,” said Hackendorn. “Such a change reflects government estimates for the maximum amount of ethanol that can be physically mixed in gasoline for next year. The failure to make this change will continue putting union jobs and domestic fuel supplies at risk and keeping consumer fuel prices high.”
He also spoke to the family-sustaining, high-quality union jobs in jeopardy under EPA’s current proposal, and as RIN prices continue to put unsustainable pressure on independent refineries.
“It is firmly our belief that if this RINs problem is not figured out, and the EPA does not make these needed changes, that at some point, the Delaware City Refinery and the refineries in our area are not going to be able to sustain and stay in business. They're just paying too much money for these RINs, and it needs to be fixed,” Hackendorn testified. “There's a lot of good paying union jobs and a lot of families and people in the state of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and on the East Coast relying on these jobs.”
James Peacock, Sr., the eldest of three generations of workers within his own family currently working at PBF Energy in Delaware City, underscored what’s at stake for America’s independent refineries and the tens of thousands of hardworking men and women whose jobs they support, and urged the agency to fix the RFS, before it is too late.
“If the EPA continues to inflate the RIN compliance with unrealistic targets, this will cause the shutdown of domestic refining. This will compromise our supply and demand balance, put our national security at risk,” said Peacock.
The chorus of calls from across the nation’s independent refining sector was overwhelmingly clear. For the countless individuals and families that America’s independent refineries support, the stakes have never been higher. Now is the time for President Biden and the EPA to heed these calls and revise its proposed 2022 volume targets in order to stop independent refineries from coast to coast from being forced to shut their doors forever.
- Michael Hackendorn, Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council and United Association (UA) Local 74 Plumbers & Pipefitters, Delaware DeVon Crawford, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 10-234 and Monroe Energy, LLC refinery, Pennsylvania
- Dawn Christen, Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council, Ohio
- Ken Gomeringer, USW, Delaware City Refinery, Delaware
- Joshua Bower, U.S.M.C. veteran, Monroe Energy, LLC refinery, Pennsylvania
- Bill Adams, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBW), Pennsylvania
- Joe Manerchia, Monroe Energy, LLC refinery, Pennsylvania
- James Peacock, Sr. in Delaware City Refinery, Delaware
- Scott Hayes, Toledo Refining Company, Ohio
- Sharon Watkins, Monroe Energy, LLC, Pennsylvania
- Brendan Williams, PBF Energy, Washington, D.C.
- Assemblyman John Burzichelli, New Jersey General Assembly
- Senator John Kane, Pennsylvania State Senate, and member of Plumbers Local 690
- Vicki Lightcap, former mayor of Pennsburg and former president of the Montgomery County Association of Boroughs in Pennsylvania
- Brandon Sehlhorst, Commissioner of Economic Development for the City of Toledo, Ohio
- Michael Beazley, City Administrator for the City of Oregon, Ohio
- George Parsons, Nooter Construction, Pennsylvania
- Carl Mararra, Pennsylvania Manufactures Association, Pennsylvania
- Heather Simmons, Gloucester County Commissioner and Deputy Director, New Jersey
- Chris Heck, Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania
- Richard Jones, Trainer Borough Police Department, Pennsylvania