(Adds biofuel industry reaction)
By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK, June 16 (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. congressional members sent a letter on Wednesday to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging it to reject any action that would exempt oil refiners from obligations to blend biofuels into the nation's fuel mix.
The letter comes after a report from Reuters last week that said President Joe Biden's administration, under pressure from labor unions and U.S. senators, including from his home state of Delaware, is considering ways to provide relief to U.S. oil refiners from the mandates.
The letter was signed by lawmakers from both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and states, including Iowa and Illinois. It included Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota and Representative Cheri Bustos from Illinois.
The letter was also addressed to the National Economic Council.
"We support your efforts to address climate change, but we are concerned that rolling back the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) obligation for refiners directly contradicts this work," the letter said. "Following through on the actions reportedly under discussion would directly undermine your commitment to address climate change and restore integrity to the RFS and we urge you to reject them."
Under the RFS, refiners must blend biofuels into their fuel or buy credits, known as RINs, from those that do. Refiners can apply for exemptions to the obligations if they prove the mandates harm them financially.
In the letter, the lawmakers asked the EPA instead to issue a proposed rule for renewable volume blending obligations for 2021 and 2022 with "strong blending targets." It also asked the agency to respond to a court remand to reinstate 500 million gallons of blending requirements waived from 2016 blending targets.
The lawmakers behind Wednesday's letter represent corn farmers. The RFS policy has pitted some oil refiners and corn groups against each other, as oil refiners find the mandates expensive, while farmers and biofuel producers say they help boost demand for corn-based ethanol.
The Renewable Fuels Association, a U.S. biofuels trade group, welcomed the letter.
"We're grateful to these congressional champions for standing up for our nation's producers of low-carbon ethanol and other renewable fuels," said RFA President Geoff Cooper in a statement. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis and Aurora Ellis)