The oil and gas industry is accusing the Obama administration of side-stepping its procedural rules and rushing a regulation on auto emissions.
In the letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent on Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) accused the watchdog of violating portions of the Clean Air Act that require new rules to be published in the Federal Register, the government's official ledger for regulations and notices, before accepting comments from the public and holding public hearings.
The proposal on auto emissions, which would require that refiners cut gasoline's sulfur content by more than 60 percent by 2017, was announced by the agency in March, but has not yet been published in the Federal Register. However, a supplemental notice was published in April announcing public hearings and the agency's acceptance of comments through June 13.
"What EPA did was issue a pre-publication version and then start the comment deadline before the rule made it to the Federal Register," explained Patrick Kelly, the API's downstream senior policy adviser.
"What they're doing is rushing the process in order to shorten the time for industry to be able to provide meaningful comment."
In April, the EPA held two hearings on the proposal, in Philadelphia, Pa., and Chicago, Ill. The API testified at both to express its concerns about the procedural issues and its opposition to the rule.
"There's a lot of justification that EPA has purportedly included that we've had scant time to review," added Kelly, who asserted that the EPA should accept comments for 90 days after formally publishing the rule, given the proposal's 938 pages.
"A 37-day comment period, assuming the proposal was published today, would not be enough, and would subvert our statutory procedural rights," API Downstream Group Director Robert