NATSO Board Approves Policy Priorities for 2020 at Denver Meeting

The NATSO Board of Directors approved its Priority Legislative and Regulatory Issues for 2020-2021 at its February Board Meeting held during the NATSO Connect 2020, in Denver, Colorado. NATSO’s core legislative priorities continue to focus on both transportation and fuel policy.

The NATSO Board of Directors approved its Priority Legislative and Regulatory Issues for 2020-2021 at its February Board Meeting held during the NATSO Connect 2020, in Denver, Colorado.

NATSO’s core legislative priorities continue to focus on both transportation and fuel policy.

With respect to transportation policy, NATSO will continue its long-standing efforts to preserve federal restrictions on commercial activities at Interstate rest areas, and opposing tolling on existing interstates. NATSO will also advocate for the need to increase revenues into the Highway Trust Fund to ensure certainty for the nation’s future transportation needs.

With respect to fuel policy, NATSO will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that off-highway fuel retailers can utilize incentive programs to incorporate alternative fuels into their fuel supply, all while competing on a level playing field with other industry stakeholders. Specifically, NATSO will work to preserve the incentive that allows NATSO members to profitably sell cleaner-burning fuels, including biodiesel and electricity. 

An additional top tier is preserving the integral role that the private sector plays in providing truck parking.

NATSO Vice President of Government Affairs David Fialkov said at NATSO Connect that the top policy issues involving the truckstop and travel plaza industry are becoming less siloed,  as transportation, fuel and environmental issues are beginning to overlap and policymakers consider all three issues in conjunction with one another.

Marking a major victory for NATSO members, President Trump in late December signed legislation that retroactively renewed the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit. That extension expires in 2022, however. Fialkov also expressed industry opposition to state biodiesel mandates, stating that they represent bad public policy that drives the value associated with alternative fuels away from consumers and toward producers of the fuel.

Among its core issues, NATSO also thinks that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should dramatically scale back the number of "small" refinery exemptions that it issues under the Renewable Fuel Standard Program, and further obligate itself to align the volume of renewable fuel it waives with volume it reallocates to other obligated parties.

In 2023, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) moves entirely to EPA's discretion.

EPA has been misleading NATSO’s members and the entire biofuels industry regarding the agency’s intention to utilize small refinery exemptions to lower prices for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and demand for advanced biofuels. EPA has the authority to grant waivers exempting small refineries — those producing less than 75,000 barrels of fuel per day — from their obligations under the RFS if they can prove that it would cause them an economic hardship.

EPA has granted small refinery exemptions to an unprecedented number of refineries in recent years. This has dramatically lowered RIN prices and in turn lowered demand for advanced biofuels that NATSO’s members buy, blend and sell.

Among its newest legislative priorities, NATSO will work to ensure a level-playing field for truckstops and travel plazas as they bring electricity -- the next generation of fuel -- to market.

Over the past 15 years, federal policies such as the RFS and the Biodiesel Tax Credit have created a strong incentive for fuel retailers to invest in the infrastructure and intellectual capital necessary to bring cleaner burning biofuels to market. NATSO thinks that this approach should be replicated with respect to electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This would encourage the retail fuel industry to invest in EV charging infrastructure and ultimately maximize the proliferation of such infrastructure. 

NATSO and EV charging network and infrastructure company ChargePoint announced a new partnership during NATSO Connect to significantly expand the network for electric vehicle charging to 4,000 travel plazas and fuel stops by 2040. 

NATSO also will work to ensure that public utilities are not allowed to unfairly compete against the private sector by utilizing rate payer dollars to make such investments, which would effectively destroy the incentive for private sector investment. Private sector involvement in the installation of electric vehicle charging stations is key to meeting the fueling needs of the motoring public—and the associations’ members are working to invest in that infrastructure.

The Board voted to focus staff resources on a number of issues that are detrimental to the overall health of the business community or pose unnecessarily burdensome compliance requirements.

NATSO will concentrate on such issues as human trafficking that takes place across the transportation sector and along the nation’s Interstates.

NATSO also is actively supporting efforts to ensure a level playing field for the sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products. The end of year appropriations legislation signed by President Trump amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and raised the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. As of that date, it became illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21. The effective date created significant industry confusion because the law wasn't expected to take effect until several months into 2020.

The Board’s renewal of its long-standing commitment to oppose commercial rest areas and tolling of existing interstates comes as the surface transportation law is set to expire in September 2020.

Just days prior to NATSO’s annual meeting, the Chairs of three U.S. House Committees officially unveiled a proposal for a $760 billion, five-year infrastructure plan that includes $319 billion for “transformative highway investments.

The framework calls for revamping existing highway formula programs to “prioritize investments” and “improve program implementation” to maintain and improve existing infrastructure and bring it into a state of good repair.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last summer advanced legislation that would authorize $287 billion in highway spending over five years, marking a 28 percent increase over the current authorization law. Ninety percent, or $259 billion, would go to states by formula.

Of importance to NATSO members, the measure contained a grant program to support the creation of alternative fuel corridors, including electric vehicle charging and natural gas refueling stations. NATSO worked diligently to ensure that its members will have maximum access to that grant money and that there will be no refueling stations at rest areas.

NATSO also will continue to push for an increase in the motor fuels tax, which represents the most efficient mechanism for collecting revenue for infrastructure projects.

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