Watchdog sues EPA over renewable fuel mandate

A watchdog group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to release communications with the oil industry over the 2014 renewable fuel mandate.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday over the agency’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to the mandate, which sets the amount of biofuels refiners must blend into the nation’s fuel supply.

CREW cited a Reuters report that The Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended for 2014.

The EPA denied a request for expedited review and has been slow to release the documents, CREW says.

“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?” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. 

“Is the EPA slow-walking its release of these documents because it does not want the public to learn how political the RFS [Renewable Fuel Standard] 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,” Sloan added.

The lawsuit also alleges that the EPA is delaying the release of the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard to “avoid potential political fallout in the midterms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry.”

Recently, White House adviser John Podesta, hinted that the renewable fuel levels for 2014 would rise during a meeting with Senate Democrats, calming some concerns among the biofuel industry.

But before the proposal came out, the lawsuit alleges, the oil industry “persuaded” Reps. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) to lobby administration officials including Vice President Biden and White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE against the EPA’s plans.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the agency is looking into the lawsuit.