Prominent Ohio nonprofit seeks easing of EPA's Renewable Fuel Standards Program

The group suggests abandoning the 15 billion-gallon biofuel requirement.   File photo

The Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council (NWOBTC) has written a letter condemning a program proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The NWOBTC, an influential union group, has numerous issues with the "Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2019 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2020." Members believe the proposed standards are too onerous and will result in a rise in costs.

“It could result in upward pressure on (Renewable Identification Number) costs, which… would once again threaten highly skilled domestic refining industry jobs,” reads the letter, dated Aug. 15 and addressed to Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the EPA. 

Instead of the RFS program being considered, NWOBTC suggests the EPA instead implement measures on par with 2018 requirements. For instance, the group suggests abandoning the 15 billion-gallon biofuel requirement. 

“The facts to date suggest that domestic biofuel use will remain robust, even when the standard is waived for parts of the industry,” NWOBTC Executive Secretary Shaun Enright writes. “These facts prove that the EPA can set a reasonable volumetric requirement that is below the blendwall without adversely impacting domestic ethanol or other biofuel consumption.” 

NWOBTC further notes that maintaining strict biofuel requirements will hurt the economy as companies struggle to meet increased costs. 

The group, which represents over 15,000 people, primarily seeks to preserve jobs. The Toledo Refining Co. provides more than 10 percent of Ohio’s fuel and is committed to employing NWOBTC’s workers. If the refinery shuts down, it would be a significant economic blow to the region.  

“In the high RIN price environment of the past two years, RINs became the refinery’s most significant operating expense; rising above pay, benefits and energy costs," NWOBTC argues. "Returning to such a financial environment would be unsustainable and certainly threaten jobs in the region.” 

The fate that the NWOBTC is trying to avoid for the refinery has already happened to other companies. Earlier this year, Philadelphia Energy Solutions went bankrupt as a “result of soaring RIN costs leading to hundreds of lost jobs, with thousands more at risk.” 

The letter argues that the jobs being lost are valuable, high-skilled positions. NWOBTC’s workers are employed in a variety of building and construction endeavors. Their jobs are at risk, according to the argument, because the EPA’s proposal “fails to recognize the blendwall and the uneven playing field among RFS obligated parties.”

NWOBTC also believes the EPA should take a more active role in dispelling public misconceptions, writing, “EPA must act to prevent anti-consumer manipulative practices and should advance RIN market reforms… rather than wait to pursue measures addressing RIN market integrity in the future.” 

The NWOBTC’s letter to the EPA lists multiple reasons why the RFS program needs to be altered. The group expresses concern about the proposed increases in biofuel requirements, claiming the new rules will result in lost jobs and a damaged economy. Their suggestion to evade the problem is for the EPA to reduce the requirements and issue waivers to select companies. 

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