Washington, D.C.—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.
Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.
“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”
Each year, the EPA sets the RFS for how much renewable fuel must be blended into transportation fuel supplies. The most recent standards were proposed in November 2013 and were expected to be finalized last summer. For the first time since the RFS was created, the EPA proposed lowering the renewable fuel amounts. Also, earlier this month, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change. As Reuters revealed, they persuaded Reps. Robert Brady (D-PA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) to lobby administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Economic Council Director Ronald Minsk, and former National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to weaken the RFS.
“Is the EPA slow-walking its release of these documents because it does not want the public to learn how political the RFS has become? The RFS should be based on sound energy policy, not politics. CREW’s lawsuit will shed light on what really went on at the EPA,” Ms. Sloan said.