Iowa’s Joni Ernst slams EPA for failing to remove warning labels for higher-blend ethanol sales

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

That includes eliminating warning labels on the higher ethanol blend, known as E15, as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler previously promised to do, Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said in a letter sent Tuesday to Wheeler and first obtained by the Washington Examiner. The EPA in May 2019 allowed year-round sales of E15, fulfilling a promise Trump made on the campaign trail to support Iowa farmers.

Ernst, a staunch advocate for biofuels producers, questioned Wheeler about the labeling during an oversight hearing in May, to which the administrator said the issue was “more complicated” than he’d anticipated.

“I fail to understand where the complications lie,” Ernst wrote. She is asking Wheeler to commit to initiating a rule-making to remove the warning labels by Oct. 4, which she said is one year after Trump administration officials, including Wheeler, committed to bolster E15 sales by removing barriers to its sale and increasing investments in biofuels infrastructure.

 “Consumers have now driven more than 15 billion miles on E15, retailers have had millions of transactions, and it has been sold for nearly a decade (since 2011), all without a single reported issue,” Ernst wrote. “It makes little sense why the black and orange warning label cannot be addressed immediately.”

In recent months, Ernst has stepped up pressure on the Trump administration, particularly as the EPA separately weighs dozens of petitions from oil refiners for exemptions from prior years of the renewable fuels standard. Ernst and other corn-state lawmakers, as well as biofuels producers, have slammed those requests as attempts to circumvent a federal appeals court ruling from early this year that would sharply limit the EPA’s ability to grant exemptions from the federal biofuels blending requirements.

In June, Ernst blocked Trump’s nominee for the EPA’s deputy administrator, saying she would oppose the nomination until the agency said how it intended to handle the exemption requests. Senate Environment Committee Chairman John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said Ernst’s opposition means a path forward for the nomination “no longer exists.”

Oil-state senators such as Barrasso have argued the federal appeals court ruling would devastate small refiners, and they’ve criticized the Trump administration for not fighting the ruling.