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NPRA Counsel Urges Balance Between Ecological Goals, Need for Energy Supplies

United States energy policy should “strike a better balance between environmental goals and our need for reliable energy supplies. These are not incompatible goals,” testified Bob Slaughter, general counsel of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, before the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety.

NPRA represents almost 500 companies, including virtually all of the domestic refining industry and most petrochemical manufacturers with processes similar to refiners, that supply consumers with products used daily in homes and businesses.

“It has been many years since we've had a serious national debate on energy policy,” Slaughter told the subcommittee. “For much of the last decade or two, low prices and plentiful supplies have enabled consumers to take energy for granted. As a result, policies have often been pursued in a piecemeal fashion and without the necessary attention to their impact on our overall supply of energy and on the mix of individual energy supply sources.

“Due to both financial and regulatory constraints, it is rather unlikely that new refineries will be constructed in the United States,” he said. “Indeed, no new refinery has been built in the past 20 years. Rates of return for refineries have averaged about 5% in the last decade, roughly the equivalent to the return from a passbook savings account — but with much greater risk. In the same period, refiners were required to make substantial capital investments to meet environmental requirements — investments that the National Petroleum Council estimated were greater than the book value of the refineries themselves.”

NPRA urged policymakers to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a reasonable approach to Clean Air Act permitting requirements. In addition, NPRA urged adjustment of the recently issued diesel sulfur rule and careful attention to the impact of all federal policies on energy supply.

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