2011 was a year of perpetual threats to American workers and their jobs as well as the American economy. Tesoro faced a blizzard of new onerous job-killing regulations from the US EPA, and a White House openly hostile to the needs of our customers and our industry.
Through one of the most menacing legislative and regulatory years in recent memory, Tesoro not only weathered the storm, but achieved several legislative and regulatory victories critical to our employees and our Company. Our Regulatory Blizzard chart (pdf) showing the massive avalanche of new regulations is now a fixture in many offices on Capitol Hill. Our success was accomplished, in part, through the active grassroots participation of folks like you through ActTesoro. Our 2011 successes include:
CURBING ETHANOL MANDATES & SUBSIDIES
The year began with the US EPA proposal (the “E-15 waiver”) to mandate an increase in ethanol formulations that would have endangered consumer vehicles and equipment, and potentially, even the environment. Despite the cautions of consumers, automakers, and refiners, US EPA pressed ahead without sufficient safeguards or accepting any responsibility for the equipment liabilities resulting from its plan to force more ethanol use upon Americans. Tesoro (and others) worked with Members of Congress to successfully check US EPA’s attempt to ignore evidence and implement this questionable regulation. In light of these efforts, many in Congress and across America are rethinking the ethanol subsidy. One example was Congressman John Sullivan’s (R-OK) amendment which overwhelmingly passed the House, to defund US EPA’s ability to fully implement the E-15 waiver. Additionally, in the Senate, an amendment was offered by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) which effectively terminated the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit and the tariff on imported ethanol. The overwhelming support for the Feinstein/Coburn amendment led directly to the expiration of this credit and tariff at the end of 2011.
These successful amendments are just two example of Tesoro’s work on the renewable fuels front which remains ongoing in 2012.
REDUCING BANK SWIPE FEES
In the spring and early summer, and at the behest of large commercial banking interests, the US Senate voted on legislation to stop a Federal Reserve regulation to require banks to charge only “reasonable and proportionate” swipe fees on debit card transactions. Tesoro, together with consumer and small business allies, worked to defeat this amendment that could have cost American companies and consumers $20 billion a year. As a result of this victory, the Federal Reserve revised and implemented its regulation that is now protecting American retailers, including Tesoro and our station outlets, from unreasonable and disproportionate swipe fees imposed by large banks.
SCRUTINIZING US EPA RULEMAKINGS
Tesoro won a major victory in the US House of Representatives on the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011. The “TRAIN” Act would require US EPA to consider the economic repercussions of the regulations it puts forward. The legislation would ensure that relevant experts (e.g., the US Secretaries of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture) are consulted to make certain America’s consumers, businesses, workers, and farmers aren’t unduly harmed by the blizzard of regulations which US EPA is working to finalize. The bill is now pending before the US Senate and unfortunately faces a White House veto threat.
URGING EPA TO RECONSIDER FURTHER REGULATION OF GASOLINE (TIER III)
Despite the fact that gasoline sold in the United States has already achieved a 90% reduction in its sulfur content since 2004, US EPA is pushing ahead to further regulate sulfur levels in gasoline without any apparent analytical justification. The TRAIN Act was amended to address this concern. Ironically, US EPA appears intent on pursuing this proposal despite extensive analysis showing that it could result in an additional four to seven refinery closures; add up to 25 cents per gallon of gasoline and dramatically increase initial capital and recurring operational costs – approximately $17 and $13 billion, respectively.
REFORMING THE FEDERAL REGULATORY PROCESS:
The US House of Representatives passed three important regulatory reform bills in 2011. The Regulatory Accountability Act would make the regulatory process more transparent and open, agencies more accountable, and their regulations more cost-effective. The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would amend the process that federal agencies use to analyze and develop new regulations and existing regulations would be revisited to determine if they are still necessary and justified. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act establishes that major regulations (costing $100 million or more) be approved by Congress.
Although each of these bills faces opposition from the White House, Tesoro is continuing to advocate for them in the US Senate.
The year ahead looks to be laced with election-year political gimmicks, many designed to demonize our workers and our business. Despite rising public concern over the negative impact that many of US EPA’s regulations are having on jobs and rising energy costs, as evidenced by the closure of several major refineries on the east coast, this White House and its most ardent allies seem undeterred in their efforts to move ahead with even more onerous mandates. Tesoro expects that our sector will continue to be a target of the White House’s reelection campaign.
Despite the relentless blizzard of US EPA regulations and much activity in Congress, we have together withstood the storm. 2012 will be a decisive year for the future of our workers, our customers and our industry.