Oil refiners key in on Perdue


With help from Eric Wolff
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— Oil refiners in a battle with the ethanol industry over rules governing biofuels are taking aim at Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
— Lawmakers and trade union representatives will meet today to discuss next steps on Philadelphia Energy Solutions following a devastating fire that rocked the refinery last month.
— OPEC agreed Monday to extend production cuts into next year.
GOOD TUESDAY MORNING! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. ClearView Energy’s Christine Tezak gets the win for naming Edward Rutledge, from South Carolina, as the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rutledge was 26. For today: Who were the five men appointed to the committee tasked with drafting the Declaration of Independence? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to ktamborrino@politico.com.

SONNY WITH A CHANCE: Oil refiners are trying to put Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the sidelines in the latest skirmish over the Renewable Fuel Standard. Several oil-state senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday asking the president to rein in Perdue, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. The letter comes as the Trump administration tries to balance demands from two powerful lobbies and their backers on Capitol Hill.
EPA recently fulfilled Trump’s promise to expand sales of 15-percent ethanol blends, but farmers still complained to Trump they were suffering because of the dozens of economic hardship waivers the agency has granted that free refiners from the mandate to blend biofuels. In turn, the president has pressed Perdue and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to craft a plan that would address those waivers, a move refinery supporters in Monday’s letter contend violates Perdue’s role under the Clean Air Act.
“We would view any decisions to further delay, reduce, or deny hardship relief to small refineries, or to reallocate the obligations of small refineries to other refineries, as the result of the Secretary of Agriculture’s impermissible interference,” according to the letter led by Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso.
The refining industry said it would ramp up its efforts to sway the White House to keep the waivers, Eric reports. “These letters are as much about communicating to the president how strong people feel about this as they are to making the point on the subject matter,” one refining industry source told Eric. “We’ll see what he thinks after a lot more advocacy ends up in front of the White House.”
The refinery left behind: For all the oil behemoths receiving exemptions from the RFS, specialty lube oil and diesel maker Ergon-West Virginia can’t seem to get the time of day from EPA. Ergon said it applied for exemptions for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 compliance years, but EPA has not acted within required time limits, and now Ergon will take the agency to court — again. The refiner won a 4th Circuit case last year requiring EPA to reexamine an Obama-ere rejection of its exemption request.

OPEC CUTS CONTINUE INTO NEXT YEAR: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Monday to extend its production cuts that have helped lift oil prices for another nine months. In its statement after the meeting at its Vienna headquarters on Monday, the cartel said oil demand growth for 2019 had been revised down to 1.14 million barrels a day (mb/d), while crude output from non-OPEC countries was expected to grow at “a robust pace of 2.14 mb/d, year-on-year.”
The agreement “comes amid deepening geopolitical fractures between members of the group,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “The discussions over long-term cooperation plans highlighted the risks of the cartel’s alliance with Russia: OPEC needs the partnership to compete with U.S. shale producers, but longstanding members say they feel ostracized by the alliance.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR PHILADELPHIA REFINERY: State lawmakers and representatives from the United Steelworkers will meet today to consider next steps on the closure of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, one of the oldest refineries in the country. The permanent closure of the 335,000 barrel-per-day refinery is expected next month and follows a massive explosion at the facility on June 21.
The United Steelworkers announced Monday that members from its Local 10-1 union will meet with Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), state lawmakers and other officials this afternoon to discuss the future of the refinery. Scanlon previously said her office was “working to ensure that the workers who will be impacted by this closure, and their families, are supported and protected, and will have access to the resources that they need.”
The union said about 2,000 workers are directly employed by PES and “thousands more” depend on the refinery “to some degree.” Today’s meeting “will address the immediate future of the facility and its workers, as well as options to resume production and the potential long-term consequences for the regional and national economy if the refinery is permanently shut down,” according to a release from the Steelworkers.
REPORT: LNG OUTPUT TO COLLIDE WITH IPCC GOALS: A tripling in global liquefied natural gas capacity — concentrated in North America — is on course to collide with the greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out by last year’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a new report the Global Energy Monitor warns. “Measured by global warming impacts, the scale of the LNG expansion under development is as large or greater than the expansion of coal-fired power plants,” the report found. Still, it also notes that decreasing costs of renewable alternatives leaves the financial viability of expanding LNG infrastructure in doubt.

DNC COMMITTEE WEIGHING CLIMATE-FOCUSED DEBATE: The Democratic National Committee is moving closer to the prospect of a debate devoted solely to climate change, amid every louder calls from Democratic presidential candidates and environmental groups to do so. A DNC executive committee late last month referred two resolutions to the organization’s resolutions committee — one to hold a climate change presidential debate and another calling for a forum on climate change — a DNC official told ME. The resolutions committee will decide the next steps ahead of a DNC meeting in August.

WHAT’S IN STORE: When senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee return later this month from their congressional recess, they’ll be met with a bevy of energy bills. The committee will hold a markup on July 9 to look at 11 bills, including one from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), S. 1602 (116), to allocate $300 million over five years to help drive research into energy storage, and another bill, S. 1685 (116), from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to require the Department of Energy to establish a carbon capture technology research program.
LAWMAKERS WANT MORE INFO FROM WWF: House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) joined forces in a letter Monday to the World Wildlife Fund, requesting documents related to the organization’s anti-poaching efforts. The letter follows a BuzzFeed report detailing World Wide Fund for Nature funding of anti-poaching forces who committed human rights abuses.
The letter to WWF chief Carter Roberts said the organization has stated a commitment to cooperate with the lawmakers. “Despite the importance of protecting wildlife and preventing species extinction, the United States cannot be party to violations of basic human rights,” the letter says. “Moreover, such abuses undermine local support for wildlife conservation efforts and may jeopardize long-term species recovery.”

DOCUMENT DUMP: Environmental groups released a trove of documents Monday that they say paint a picture into how FOIA requests at the Interior Department are handled. The documents were released after a year of litigation, spurred by an Earthjustice lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth for documents related to policy changes at Interior on FOIA requests.
The groups say the documents offer insight into Interior’s Freedom of Information Act “awareness” process, which green groups have asked Interior’s inspector general to investigate. That process allows Interior staff to weigh in on FOIA releases in which they’re mentioned. Yvonne Yuting Chi, an attorney at Earthjustice, told ME the documents reveal “a systematic encroachment” by political appointees to both delay and reduce information released to the public.

— Marcie Smith will become a professional staff member for Republicans on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, after two years as a legislative assistant for Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.).
— The Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute announced Chad Whiteman was added as vice president of environment and regulatory affairs. Whiteman was previously deputy chief of the Natural Resources and Environment Branch in the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

— “Mayors approve resolution pressing for carbon pricing in Congress,” via Washington Examiner.
— “U.S. drilling slowdown triggers oil bankruptcy,” via The Wall Street Journal.
— “A ‘volcano’ at the bottom of the gulf,” via The Washington Post.
— “We’ve already built too many power plants and cars to prevent 1.5 Degrees C of warming,” via MIT Technology Review.
— “Revelation Energy, Blackjewel coal companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy,” via S&P Global Market Intelligence.
— “Wired bacteria form nature’s power grid: ‘We have an electric planet,'” via The New York Times.

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