Late last year, without warning, the White House did a 180-degree shift on its renewable fuels policy.  But until the spring of this year, no one had any idea why. 

In May, according to Reuters, the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines – both of which own oil refineries – contacted two powerful members of Congress and urged them to ask the White House to scale back the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS).  A scaled back RFS would help Carlyle and Delta continue to reap high profits by allowing them to use more oil instead of renewable fuels.  

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One of the lawmakers contacted by Carlyle was Democratic Congressman Bob BradyRobert (Bob) A. BradyAmericans connect with government at the library – so fix the Federal Depository Library Program Forget term limits — retirements will create competitive 2018 elections House Dems see chance for big gains in Pennsylvania MORE of Pennsylvania.  A close political ally of Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Group launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid Kamala Harris top 2020 choice in poll of women of color MORE, Brady asked the vice president to slow the growth of the RFS.  The vice president then worked with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughSenate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI Ex-Obama chief of staff: Obama's Russia response was 'watered down' MORE, and economic advisers Ronald Minsk and Gene Sperling to come up with a plan that ultimately led to the EPA’s scaled back RFS proposal.  

Also revealed was that the White House had inserted language that would allow the RFS to be waived if oil companies refuse to distribute renewable fuels.  In other words, the oil companies, which have always wanted to eliminate the RFS, would be in charge of implementing the RFS.  This is tantamount to putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  

My government watchdog organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was alarmed by these reports, which suggest our nation’s energy policy is being devised through backroom deals for the benefit of the oil companies.  Further, absent these media reports, only a handful of powerful government officials and lobbyists would have known why the White House had suddenly reversed course on the RFS. Previously, ever since he was a senator, President Obama had publicly supported a robust RFS.   

Following up on the Reuters articles, last May CREW called for an Inspector General investigation at the EPA and filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) with EPA seeking relevant information about interactions between the agency and the White House regarding the RFS decision.    

It took months for the EPA to provide any documents in response to our FOIA request, but even then failed to turn over any substantive information that could shed light on interactions between the White House and the agency on the implementation of the RFS. Therefore, last month CREW filed a lawsuit against the EPA to force the agency to turn over all relevant records.  

Maybe now that the mid-term elections are behind us, which minimizes any potential political fallout from the release of records, 2014 is almost over and the 2015 RFS is due out shortly, the EPA will stop fighting us and hand over the documents.

Otherwise, CREW is confident that our lawsuit – and ultimately a judge – will compel the EPA to comply with our FOIA request.  We expect the documents will reveal the truth extent of Carlyle and Delta’s influence over the RFS.  The public deserves to know the facts about the RFS and biofuels. 

Sloan is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).