EPA chief could get frosty reception in South Dakota visit

Source: By Jonathan Ellis, Argus Leader • Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2018

If EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt comes to South Dakota, he’d better not expect red carpet treatment from the state’s ethanol producers.

Ethanol backers criticized the administrator ahead of a rumored visit that Pruitt could be making to South Dakota next week. The EPA did not respond to a request about the potential visit, but ethanol backers say they’ve been told that he could be touring a farm here.

The industry has been critical of Pruitt, who President Trump nominated to run the EPA in 2017. Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has close ties with ethanol’s mortal enemy: Big Oil.

Under his watch, the EPA has granted dozens of waivers to refiners allowing them to produce gasoline without required blends of ethanol under the country’s Renewable Fuels Standard, which currently requires refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supplies. Pruitt’s waivers have reduced the amount of ethanol by more than a billion gallons.

And despite President Trump supporting a proposal that would allow gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol to be sold during the summer months, the EPA has not lifted a ban on E15 sales that is in place from June 1 to Sept. 15 each year.

“We’d prefer Administrator Pruitt spend his time in D.C. delivering on the president’s agenda to allow year-round use of E15,” said Kyle Gilley, the senior vice president of external affairs and communications for Poet, the nation’s largest ethanol producer. “Once he gets that done we’ll be happy to hold a Trump-style rally in Sioux Falls to celebrate the new opportunities for farmers and biofuels producers.”

Corn-based ethanol is a critical product for the state’s farmers, said Lisa Richardson, the executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. Last year, farmers in South Dakota produced 95 million bushels of corn used to feed livestock. In contrast 378 million bushels were used for ethanol production.

“He is welcome if he is giving us E15 all year-round,” Richardson said. “Otherwise, he has undermined our industry so dramatically he is not welcome here.”

The state’s congressional delegation has also been critical of moves made by Pruitt to undermine ethanol production.

“While the Trump administration has made tremendous strides in peeling back unnecessary EPA regulations, it’s clear Administrator Pruitt is no friend to ethanol, which is a significant concern to me and many in South Dakota,” Rep. Kristi Noem said in an email Friday.

In April, Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune joined other farm state senators in a letter to Pruitt pushing him to implement year-round E15 sales. In a separate letter, Rounds demanded greater transparency in the secretive process Pruitt has used to grant waivers to refiners on blending requirements. Rounds wanted to know how many had been issued, how many gallons of ethanol had been displaced because of the waivers and more information on what criteria the EPA uses in granting waivers.

“Corn ethanol production is a vital component of the South Dakota economy,” Rounds wrote. “The corn ethanol industry supports thousands of jobs in South Dakota and contributes a significant amount of revenue to South Dakota communities.”

President Donald Trump’s White House is less predictable when it comes to the future of ethanol policy. Growers and producers in South Dakota are watching Washington D.C. to see what happens. Wochit