Ernst grills EPA nominee on RFS waivers

Source: By KMAland • Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2020

(Washington, D.C.) — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says farmers and producers are tired of being yanked around by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ernst participated in a confirmation hearing for Doug Benevento to be deputy administrator of the EPA Wednesday. Recently, the EPA indicated it will appeal a court ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with the biofuels industry. The court ruled that some of the waivers granted by the EPA to let small oil refineries not blend ethanol into gasoline were illegal.

“These illegal SREs caused over 4 billion gallons of demand destruction for ethanol and biodiesel and it shut down numerous plants across the Heartland, depressing commodity values in an already uncertain time for my farmers and my producers,” said Ernst.

The court ruling focused on three waivers that it said were illegally extended last year. Ernst questioned Benevento on the remaining waivers that are pending while the legal case sits in limbo.

“There are currently 23 pending waiver petitions for 2019,” said Ernst. “Now that the administration is considering an appeal — which is ongoing now, that decision has yet to be made from the 10th Circuit — can you commit to me that the EPA will not grant any of these pending small-refinery exemptions of 2019 until the legal action is settled?”

Benevento declined to answer the question in the hearing.

“As the review is ongoing, it’s a very complex decision,” said Benevento. “I know our folks in OAR, as well as the lawyers at DOJ, are looking at it and trying to determine what exactly it means for us. The best way to get back to you on that, to give you an answer that I think is going to be certain and accurate, is to respond in writing.”

Ernst says farmers in her state and around the country are hurting because of the EPA’s actions.

“Our farmers and producers are tired of yanked around by the EPA and these illegal SREs,” said Ernst. “There are some small refineries out there that should be granted waivers; I will give them that. But a number of these ‘small refineries’ are actually owned by much larger oil companies like Exxon and Chevron. Those don’t seem to be small refineries.”

Benevento is a former employee for Xcel Energy and has held various roles in public administration before working for the EPA.