Acting EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler vows to offer regulatory ‘certainty’ to Iowans

Source: By William Petroski, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met Monday at the Iowa State Fair with political leaders and agribusiness groups, promising to carefully consider their concerns about federal regulatory matters.

Andrew Wheeler, the agency’s interim administrator, said after the closed-door discussion that he wants to ensure more certainty in EPA’s dealings with the public. One example, he said, is proposed changes to the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” which will determine for farmers and other landowners what is and what is not a wetland.

He said a proposal should be coming within the next 60 days “so you don’t have to hire attorneys and consultants” to implement the environmental regulation.

Wheeler replaced former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned while under fire for ethics scandals. Wheeler also said he recognizes that the federal Renewable Fuels Standard is important not only to Iowans, but to the entire country. The RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel.

However, Wheeler declined to provide a timeline for when a decision will be made on a proposal to allow year-round use of E-15 fuel, which contains 15 percent ethanol blended with gasoline. Renewable fuels advocates say that because of an antiquated regulation from 1990, the federal government restricts the sale of higher-octane ethanol blends, including E15, between June 1 and Sept. 15 simply because those fuels were not around when the regulation was written.

Wheeler was joined by Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Rep. David Young, both Republicans, for a news briefing after the roundtable discussion. Reynolds and Young thanked him for coming to Iowa and for talking about issues of importance to farmers.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, who attended the event, said later he was overall happy that Wheeler was listening to Iowans.

“I was a little disappointed that he has pulled back from Pruitt’s position that they do have the authority to grant year round E-15. He says he wants to look at it further,” Shaw said. “He explained that he wants to be absolutely certain it holds up in court. I get that, but at some point we need to move forward with our best legal argument.”