Grassley slams Pruitt, says done ‘playing around’ on ethanol

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gave EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a stark choice today on biofuels: more ethanol-friendly policies, or your job.

“I’m done playing around on this,” Grassley said in a conference call with reporters, calling on EPA to stop granting renewable fuel waivers to refineries. “They better, or I’m going to be calling on Pruitt to resign.”

Grassley’s salvo is the latest chapter in the intensifying battle over the Trump administration’s mixed signals on the renewable fuel standard, which requires blending of biofuel into the nation’s fuel supply.

He said EPA waivers for small refiners counteract whatever benefit the industry might see from expanded availability of higher-ethanol fuel, which EPA may also seek.

And while Pruitt, an Oklahoman with ties to the oil industry, may not be a fan of biofuel, he’s running an agency for President Trump, who’s promised to maintain the RFS, Grassley said.

“Pruitt was not elected,” Grassley said, adding that the administrator’s job is to carry out Trump’s agenda.

Should Grassley call for Pruitt’s resignation, he would be one of a number of lawmakers — mainly Democrats — to do so, although others have focused on the ethics-related complaints about the administrator.

Petroleum industry sources fought back by quoting Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has said the Clean Air Act requires EPA to grant waivers to small refiners that suffer economic hardship from the RFS.

During the Obama administration, EPA didn’t grant waivers as required and was rebuked in federal court, they said.

“It is untenable that a sitting senator would give an administration official a Sophie’s choice: to violate the Clean Air Act or resign,” LeAnn Johnson Koch, director of the Small Refiners Coalition, said in a statement.

“As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we would expect Chairman Grassley to recognize the role of the 3rd branch of government and respect the decision of the Court of Appeals for 10th Circuit in Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA,” Johnson Koch said.

Grassley and other ethanol supporters say they want EPA to revamp how it grants waivers, which have increased sharply in number in the last year.

At the same time, the administration hasn’t said how or when it will lift seasonal restrictions on 15-percent-ethanol fuel, but Trump said he aims to do so. Officials may also seek public comment on ways to make the markets for renewable fuel credits more transparent.

Grassley said that he supports transparency, perhaps with the help of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, but that he doesn’t think Pruitt needs a public comment period in order to act.