Grassley: Replacing Pruitt Not Easy

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN/Progressive Farmer • Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pruitt has been lauded in farm country for rolling back EPA regulations, including the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that is on track for a rewrite on into 2019.

The EPA administrator has drawn intense scrutiny for granting at least 40 RFS waivers to small refineries, and even larger oil companies that own them in many cases. The waivers originally were designed for small companies who could show that conforming to the RFS requirements creates economic hardships. In recent weeks, it was reported that large oil companies, including Exxon and Chevron, have asked EPA for waivers in 2018 despite reporting more than $1 billion in profits.

There have been questions as to why Pruitt’s actions at EPA have not matched the president’s public support for the ethanol industry. Grassley said he believes Trump is often unaware of every detail in every agency.

“I think he’s (Pruitt) trying to get a balancing act between refining and ethanol,” Grassley said. “The president has said to me publicly and privately that he intends to keep his commitment to ethanol. I think he has a director in Pruitt who isn’t keeping the president’s promises. A president of the United States can’t get into every detail of every cabinet member, or what every agency is doing. He’s (Pruitt) running waivers out like every refinery was distressed. That is way beyond the intent of the law. I wish someone would challenge that in court.”

As of Tuesday, the EPA is not facing lawsuits, though some ethanol industry representatives have indicated legal challenges may be on the way.

One week ago, Grassley and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., led a bipartisan group of senators in writing a letter to Pruitt, calling on the EPA to stop issuing waivers and to provide more transparency on waivers dating back to 2016. In addition, the senators also asked Pruitt to provide information about EPA’s plan on how it will approach future requests.

Also signing the letter were Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Debbie Stabenow, R-Mich.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

The EPA has drawn fire for what seems to be a lack of transparency on waivers dating back to 2016 as well as details about the companies receiving waivers and the amount of biofuel blending excluded.

Estimates are that to date, the waivers issued could have resulted in more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol not being blended. Small refiners and others have urged the EPA to place a cap on the price of biofuels credits called renewable identification numbers (RINs). The waivers issued, however, have led to a drop in the price for RINs.