Watchdog wants probe into relaxed fuel regs

 

A watchdog group suggested Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) move to lower the renewable fuel standard came at the behest of big business.

The allegation drew sift rebuke from the EPA, which said the action was the result consultation with a broad range of groups and careful government analysis.

In a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requests a formal probe into whether Delta Airlines and the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based investment firm improperly influenced the decision.

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The proposal, unveiled last year but not yet finalized, reflects the EPA’s first ever action to decrease the amount of renewable fuels that must be blended into traditional ones.

“Given that the agency’s decision to lower renewable fuel standards is an unprecedented break from past practices, the public has a right to know whether this decision was based on policy or politics,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. “The EPA inspector general should immediately investigate.”

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said regulators met with, and heard from, groups representing varying perspectives, as well as other agencies. Ultimately, EPA is responsible for the proposal, which was “based on the law and the best data and information available at the time,” she said.

“The proposal, issued last November, sought to put the RFS program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued long-term growth of the renewable fuel industry – while addressing the real-world limitations in ethanol blending generally referred to as the ‘E10 blend wall.’”

CREW cited a Reuters story delving into to heavy lobbying efforts from Carlyle and Delta in hopes of influencing Congress, the White House and the agency. The group cites, in particular, pressure brought by Reps. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), noting that Carlyle and Delta each acquired oil refineries in the Philadelphia area two years ago.

However, pressure to lower the renewable fuel standard came from a much broader array of lawmakers. In the days before the proposal was released, 169 House members signed on to a letter urging EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to lower the standard.

"The demands of the current RFS are unrealistic and are causing great uncertainty," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said at the time.

This story was updated at 1:50 p.m. with additional information.