U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, center, met with State Rep. Martin Causer on Wednesday, from left, and Robin Augustine, vice president of operations for the American Refining Group, for a tour and discussions on corn ethanol mandates for the oil industry.

For a number of years, refineries across the region and country have been mandated to add corn ethanol to their products, which can be a very expensive procedure.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., traveled to Bradford to meet with Robin Augustine, ARG vice president of operations, and State Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, to take a tour of the refinery and discuss how the federal corn ethanol mandate is impacting the company’s business.

Toomey, along with Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have been working together on the Toomey-Feinstein Restore Environmental Sustainability to Our Renewable Energy (RESTORE) Act, which will abolish the corn ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The two senators are working on the bi-partisan effort to get rid of the “ill-conceived RFS (which) forces American motorists to buy billions of gallons of corn ethanol each year.”

Toomey has noted the “heavy-handed federal mandate drives up the price of gas and food, damages engines, and harms the environment.

“This is a small refiner by refinery standards, but an important employer,” Toomey said upon his arrival at ARG. His staff noted the senator had also visited Warren, Clarion University and Forest County on unrelated matters earlier in the day.

“I want to meet personally to discuss some of the ways federal policies are affecting this business and employment here,” Toomey remarked.

The mandate Toomey was referring to is the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which requires refineries to blend renewable fuels, such as corn-based ethanol, into gasoline and diesel. Industry representatives have stated that a complex system is in place to make sure a certain amount of blending is done, which imposes a financial hardship on smaller refiners.

Congress has agreed to let the Environmental Protection Agency grant waivers to refiners of less than 75,000 barrels a day, that include ARG, which processes 10,000 barrels a day, and United Refining in Warren.

Toomey’s office has said there are concerns with the president hearing from the agricultural community about the renewable fuel standard. In addition, Toomey has noted the agricultural community wants to see the corn ethanol program increase, which also causes concern regarding the smaller refineries.

“I’m trying to remove the corn component entirely — so I would dramatically reduce the ethanol mandate,” he continued. “It would also relieve refineries from the obligation of buying (an accounting device) to prove compliance with the regulation, but it can be extremely expensive and very problematic for refiners.”

Toomey said it is important to note that putting ethanol in the gas supply does nothing for the environment.

“It’s been clearly documented that with all of the pollutants that go into the entire process from beginning to end, it’s better for the environment to actually use gasoline,” he surmised. “In fact, that’s why Diane Feinstein is my co-sponsor on this legislation. We have Democrat support as well as Republican support.”

Causer said he, too, was pleased to have Toomey visit the refinery.

“This is an historic refinery, “ Causer said of ARG which is the oldest continuously operating refinery in the country. “In the big picture it’s a small refinery, but to us it’s huge. The economic impact in Bradford is tremendous.”

Causer said the mandates issued for the refinery, whether at the state or federal level, are significant.

“Those are things we have to be mindful of and how they affect refineries like this,” Causer explained.

Augustine said Toomey’s visit to the area is encouraging to officials at ARG, which is fully compliant with the ethanol mandates.

“It’s encouraging because we know Senator Toomey has been very supportive of some of the regs that put unintended penalties on businesses like American Refining … some of these regulations become very costly. We want to keep this refinery running, it’s been running 135 years and we want to keep it going.

“It’s very encouraging to know we have elected people who’ve got our back,” he stated.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)