NJ Lawmakers Ask EPA to Waive Ethanol Rule for Local Gasoline

Tom Johnson | November 17, 2017 | Energy & Environment
Adding ethanol to gasoline is a federal requirement that may drive production costs at Paulsboro refinery over the top, threatening its viability

Credit: WHYY.org
paulsboro refinery
Top legislative leaders in New Jersey are pressing federal environmental officials to waive rules governing blending of ethanol into gasoline, a requirement they say threatens the viability of the Paulsboro refinery.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the lawmakers from the Third Legislative District said complying with the rule makes it difficult and expensive to operate an oil refinery in the region.

The appeal from Senate President Stephen Sweeney; John Burzichelli, the deputy speaker in the Assembly; and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro echoes concerns from officials in Pennsylvania, including Gov. Tom Wolf.

The ethanol-blending rule, under review by the EPA, pits segments of the oil-refining sector in the Northeast against Midwest corn farmers over a requirement to comply with a Renewable Fuel Standard involving ethanol.

The standard requires refiners to blend a certain percentage of ethanol or other biofuel into gasoline and diesel to comply with the rule. Refiners that do not have the capability to blend ethanol into the fuel can comply by purchasing credits (known as “RINs”) instead, an expensive proposition, the lawmakers said.

“The cost of compliance to this regulation puts at risk these energy-sector jobs in our region,’’ the legislators said in the joint letter to Pruitt. “In addition, these high costs also contribute to the cost of gasoline for residents and consumers.’’

The legislators note the agency has legal authority under the Clean Air Act to waive the renewable obligations “should they present a harm to a state or regional economy.”

The Paulsboro plant, now in its 100th year, employs 475 full-time workers, as well as another 300 contractors, according to the legislators.