Ernst: EPA policy on ethanol leading to concern Midwest way of life “under attack”

Source: By CBS2/FOX28 • Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2019

The battle between big oil and Iowa’s corn industry was the focus of a Tuesday afternoon town hall in Cedar Rapids. Senator Joni Ernst met privately with workers at the Dupont Nutrition and Biosciences plant. After a tour of the facility, workers asked questions focused largely on renewable fuels and the trade war. The first question from the audience pointing out the ripple effects the ongoing trade war is having. With farmers battling low commodity prices made worse after China stopped buying American ag products, John Deere announced it was cutting back production 20%, which could lead to layoffs and even plant shutdowns.

Sen. Ernst admitted the trade war is having an impact, but is confident that the Trump Administration can get a better deal from China once a resolution is complete. Sen. Ernst also expressed her desire to pass the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA. The trade deal must be ratified by Congress before it can take effect.

But the biggest focus at the plant, which is a big player in the biofuels industry, was the Trump Administration’s decision to grant 31 waivers to oil refineries. The waivers exempt those refineries from meeting regulations requiring ethanol production. The exemptions are supposed to go to smaller refineries, but Ernst accuses the EPA of granting waivers operated by companies like Exxon and Chevron. “There is a big concern out there that our Renewable Fuel Standard, our way of life here in the Midwest, is under attack. Now we’d like to provide these products to consumers, but if we have all of these small refineries that are receiving exemptions, they don’t have to produce.”

Sen. Ernst also told the workers that former Iowa Governor and current Ambassador to China Terry Branstad met with President Trump Monday. According to Ernst, Ambassador Branstad tried to explain to the President the importance of ethanol production to Iowa, its farmers and the greater economy they support.

As the Senator spoke, Iowa’s three Democrat members of Congress were calling for the Inspector General to investigate the EPA and the decision to grant waivers to large refineries. I asked Sen. Ernst if she would support that call for a federal investigation. “I think we need to shed transparency on this and understand how they are arriving on what is a small refinery, because to me it looks like some of those small refineries are associated with much larger entities.”