Joni Ernst: Trump ‘can do better’ than Scott Pruitt

Source: By John Siciliano, Washington Examiner • Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018

“We can do better” than Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told the Washington Examiner in an interview Thursday.

“I’m not happy with him. I think we can do better,” but firing him “is something the president would have to do.”

She said she is not calling for his resignation but has been continually “frustrated” by Pruitt, as have other lawmakers, for months.

“I think he is trying to undercut what the president promised American farmers,” Ernst added.

“I have supported Administrator Pruitt’s efforts in other regulatory matters, but when it comes to this, just outright lying to people is not OK,” Ernst said, referring to Pruitt’s mixed message to her and farmers on his commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

She said he is “stonewalling” her and others on answering their questions about his approval of dozens of waivers for oil refiners not to blend ethanol, which has stoked the ire of farmers and renewable fuel producers who have recently sued Pruitt.

“We haven’t gotten clear answers on what actually are the qualifications to be considered a ‘hardship’ for those refineries,” Ernst said. “What defines that? There needs to be very clear guidance, otherwise, in my mind, he’s just granting waivers to friends or whoever comes through the door.”

Ernst wants Pruitt to “spell out” the legal guidance that he is using in granting the waivers. “It should not just be carte blanche, up to the EPA administrator to decide who gets a waiver and who doesn’t.”

She wants to see the guidance. “It has to be somewhere, otherwise they are just handing them out, just to hand them out,” Ernst added.

The EPA released its proposed annual renewable fuel targets for 2019 this week, which did not address the waivers. Although the targets are higher than the current year, which the biofuel industry welcomes, they are misleading because of the reduction in ethanol blending that resulted from the waivers, the industry points out.

Ernst wants to see Pruitt reallocate the 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol lost in 2018 in the final version of the 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard that must be made law by November.

“I do think we need to reallocate any of the gallons of that were waived, basically, with the hardship refinery waiver,” she said. “They need to do that, otherwise they’re not upholding the original intent of the law.”

But that’s only part of what she expects from Pruitt. She also wants him to begin the process of waiving the fuel volatility restrictions for 15-percent ethanol fuel blends, which President Trump has called for and directed Pruitt to undertake.

That would allow for the higher ethanol fuel to be used year round. As it stands now, the fuel cannot be used in the summer.

Ernst said “that in itself is a win-win” for both ethanol makers and oil refiners, because it would put more ethanol into the market while generating more ethanol credits for refiners to reduce the cost of meeting the ethanol mandate.