|Senate Passes Farm Bill with NORA Reauthorization Amendment Included
Yesterday, the Senate passed its five-year farm bill, H.R. 2, by a vote of 86-11. Importantly for heating fuels industry, the bill includes an amendment that would permanently reauthorize the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA). Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered the NORA amendment to the farm bill. Other Senators who played a key role in the process included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-NH), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).
NORA was first authorized in 2000 to provide funding that would allow the oilheat industry to provide more efficient and reliable heat and hot water to the American consumers. As a “check-off” program, NORA receives $0.002 at the wholesale level on every gallon of heating oil sold. NORA provides critical training opportunities and supports the necessary research and development for the industry. Oilheat is currently used in 6.3 million homes, serving more than 16 million Americans across the country. The current NORA program is authorized through February 2019.
The House passed its version of a farm bill last week on its second attempt. The House bill is less bipartisan than the Senate bill and includes tougher eligibility requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, a provision the White House supports. The bill now goes to conference between the House and Senate to hash out the details and come to an agreement on one final bill.
PMAA will keep you updated on the progress of this important bill as it heads to conference.
Annual Hazmat Registrations for 2018-2019 Registration Year Due July 1
The U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) requires hazardous material transporters to register and pay a fee each year in return for a certificate of operation. PHMSA began mailing the 2018-2019 registration information to HAZMAT transporters earlier this month. Only those with expiring DOT PHMSA HAZMAT registration certificates must re-register before July 1, 2018 or risk losing authority to operate and pay substantial civil penalty. Petroleum marketers should check their HAZMAT certificate for the expiration date as multiple year reservations are offered and 2018 may not be your expiration date. The validity of HAZMAT registration certificates is checked at roadside inspections.
Click here to view the full PMAA Regulatory Report.
EPA Releases Proposed RFS Obligated Blending Volumes for 2019
On Tuesday, the U.S. EPA issued a proposed rulemaking setting obligated blending volumes for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for 2019 and the biodiesel standard for 2020. The proposal calls for a three percent increase in the overall blending volumes which has sparked criticism from both the oil and ethanol industries.
The EPA is proposing to increase total renewable fuel volume by 590 million gallons from 19.29 billion gallons in 2018 to 19.88 billion gallons for 2019. Cellulosic biofuel will increase by 93 million gallons from 288 million gallons in 2018 to a proposed 381 million gallons in 2019. Under the proposed rule, advanced biofuels will increase from 4.29 billion gallons in 2018 to 4.88 billion gallons in 2019, an increase of 590 million gallons. Conventional biofuels, including corn ethanol, will remain at the 15 billion-gallon statutory maximum set by Congress under the RFS. The rulemaking also proposes to set the 2020 renewable fuel volume for biomass-based diesel at 2.43 billion gallons, up 330 million gallons when compared with 2019 and 2018 2.1 billion gallons requirement.
Overall, the proposed 2019 renewable fuel volumes are a mixed bag for petroleum marketers. The good news is that the rule did not propose to force large refiners to make up for the lost 1.5 billion gallons of obligated blending volume lost in 2018 due to blending waivers issued by the EPA to small refineries based on financial hardship. Carrying those gallons over to large refiner obligated blending volumes for 2019 would have caused the value of RIN blending credits to soar, leading to higher prices at the pump. The corn ethanol lobby is not pleased with EPA’s move which indirectly reduces the corn ethanol mandate.
For petroleum marketers, the corn ethanol mandate continues to put marketers in a precarious situation given UST system incompatibility with E10 plus blends with regard to the seals, glues, gaskets and other components that would force them to break concrete to sell higher ethanol blends.
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of American Express
This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of American Express in the case of Ohio vs. American Express. The case involved AmEx’s contracts with retailers, which ban retailers from steering customers toward using other types of payment cards that may be cheaper than what AmEx offers.
Click here to view a legal memo from PMAA General Counsel regarding the American Express antitrust case.
PMAA Sends Letter to Congress Supporting Extension of the Biodiesel Blenders Tax Credit
On Monday, PMAA joined the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABA), American Trucking Associations (ATA), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), National Biodiesel Board (NBB), National Renderers Association (NRA), National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), the New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) in sending a letter to Senate and House leadership. The letter urges Congress to extend the $1 per gallon blenders tax credit for 2018 and 2019.
Click here to view the letter.
House Eyes Second Round of Tax Reform
On Tuesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced plans to pursue a second round of tax cuts that follow up on last year’s tax reform package that passed, known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” According to Chairman Brady, the plans will extend temporary breaks for middle-income people and small businesses, and also deal with savings incentives. Chairman Brady stated that the draft proposal will consist of multiple bills and vetting will begin in the House next month in hopes of passing the bills this fall.
While House Republicans plan to act on a second tax package, it's unclear if the Senate will follow their lead. Unlike the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that passed in December which required only a simple majority to pass in the Senate, the new tax package will now require 60 votes to pass, meaning that nine Democrats would have to vote with Republicans to pass a deal.
Supreme Court Rules Against Unions Collecting Fees from Nonmembers
On Wednesday, in a major blow for unions, the Supreme Court ruled that states can no longer force workers who choose not to join unions to pay for collective bargaining fees. In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the collection of the fees, known as agency fees, violates public employees’ First Amendment right.
All five of the court's Republican-appointed justices agreed on the ruling, with the four Democratic-appointed justices dissenting. On behalf of the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote that “states and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.” The ruling overturned a 40-year-old precedent, known as the “Abood” decision, that allowed states to require public employees to pay money supporting collective bargaining and other union activities.
FMCSA Announces Program to Allow Some 18 to 20-Year-Olds to Operate Commercial Trucks
This week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that they were launching a pilot program that would allow some qualified drivers from 18 to 20-years-old to operate commercial trucks across state lines. Current federal law requires drivers operating commercial trucks across state lines to be at least 21-years-old. The program comes in response to the truck driver shortage that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) says could reach 63,000 this year. Click here to view a Washington Post article on the program.
There are similar efforts underway in the House to decrease the driver shortage. In March, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) introduced H.R. 5358, the “DRIVE-Safe Act.” The “Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act” would allow drivers 18 and older to operate across state lines, if they meet rigorous training requirements — at least 400 hours of on-duty time with 240 hours of driving time, with an experienced driver training them. Training would also be restricted to trucks equipped with active braking systems, video monitoring systems and speed limiters set to 65 mph or slower.
PMAA fully supports this bill, as does UPS, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, a division of the National Retail Federation.
Senate Appropriations Provides $3.7 Billion for LIHEAP
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their Labor-HHS-Education FY19 funding bill, which includes $3.7 billion, a $50 million increase, for home heating and cooling assistance for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education passed its FY 2019 bill which includes $3.64 billion for LIHEAP, consistent with current funding.
In February, President Trump released his FY 2019 budget proposal that would eliminate LIHEAP as well as the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). In recent years, the LIHEAP program has provided more than $3 billion annually to states in support of their fuel assistance programs. Both programs are vital in serving low income consumers of home heating fuel, with LIHEAP helping consumers with fuel funds and the WAP helping with acquiring more efficient equipment.
Star Tribune names Federated Insurance a 2018 Top 150 Workplace
Federated Insurance has been named one of the Top 150 Workplaces in Minnesota by the Star Tribune. A complete list of those selected is available at StarTribune.com/topworkplaces2018 and will also be published in the Star Tribune Top Workplaces special section on Sunday, June 24.
Produced by the same team that compiles the 27-year-old Star Tribune 100 report of the best-performing public companies in Minnesota, Top Workplaces recognizes the most progressive companies in Minnesota based on employee opinions measuring engagement, organizational health and satisfaction. The analysis included responses from over 71,000 employees at Minnesota public, private and nonprofit organizations.
The rankings in the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces are based on survey information collected by Energage, formerly WorkplaceDynamics, an independent company specializing in employee engagement and retention.
“The success of our business and of the businesses we insure, starts and ends with our outstanding employees. Our greatest asset is our people,” said Jeff Fetters, Chairman and CEO, Federated Insurance. “This award recognizes their hard work, dedication, and contributions to the organization.”
Federated Insurance was ranked ninth on the large company list.
Star Tribune Publisher Michael J. Klingensmith said, “The companies in the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces deserve high praise for creating the very best work environments in the state of Minnesota. My congratulations to each of these exceptional companies.”
To qualify for the Star Tribune Top Workplaces, a company must have more than 50 employees in the state of Minnesota. Over 2,400 companies were invited to participate. Rankings were composite scores calculated purely on the basis of employee responses.
Founded in 1904, Federated Insurance is a national insurance and risk management organization that serves the property, casualty, and life insurance needs of clients in select industries. The organization has more than 500 recommendations from state, regional, and national associations and buying groups and is rated A+ (Superior) by industry analyst A.M. Best®.
At Federated Insurance, It’s Our Business to Protect Yours.®
PMAA Platinum Partner Spotlight Featuring: Meridian Associates, Inc.
This Drives Even the Best Marketers Crazy
by Betsi Bixby
Ever been sitting at your desk delving into a strategic project that deserves your full time and attention, and just as you get settled into the details, the phone or intercom rings, or worst yet, someone knocks on your door and before you even respond marches into your office. It’s urgent, so you drop what you are doing and handle it.
Once you get that crisis out of the way, you try to tackle your project again. Since you were mentally derailed, it takes a little while to settle your focus back. You grab a beverage and try again. About 30 minutes later you are making great head way and BOOM! Another interruption. It’s happening again. Sound familiar?
To read all about Betsi’s 12 practical techniques to conquer your people problems, click here. To learn more about PMAA’s Corporate Platinum Partner, Meridian Associates, please visit or contact them at 800.728.9005.