Op-Ed: An EPA sneak attack on Trump’s promises to rural America

Source: By Laura Hubka, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, November 3, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has decided to end former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, rolling back another one of his signature achievements. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Trouble is brewing again within the Trump administration, and it could mean big problems for rural communities that voted for President Trump and other Republicans in 2016.

Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated it has backed off its plans to shatter the president’s oft-repeated promise to protect America’s investments in the world’s strongest biofuel sector – a major blow to U.S. energy security and farmers across the heartland – significant questions will remain until there is a final decision.

In an unusual – or possibly accidental – step, the EPA posted extra drafts months ago to an online collection of documents on federal biofuel targets. One of those documents was a “red-line” version of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s last-minute changes, which completely reversed the growth-oriented plan already reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Pruitt’s 11th-hour edits would slash advanced biofuel production under America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). And oil companies are working furiously to keep those cuts in the final rule, violating the spirit – if not the letter – of Pruitt’s missive to rural communities.

Then, a few months later, the agency published a notice exploring options for further reducing U.S. biofuel production, including biodiesel – an action aimed directly at soybean farmers but with a big impact on all advanced biofuels. Worse, the agency is considering a plan to strip the value from corn-based ethanol by attaching federal biofuel credits to existing exports. This scheme, devised by Valero refining, would flood the market with credits, eliminating the incentive to offer higher ethanol blends at the gas pump.

Yes, the administration has since reaffirmed the president’s commitment to biofuels and promised to improve on its disastrous proposal after being called out by Republican senators. But the truth is, we won’t know that this administration is going to live up to the president’s promises until we see a final rule that would grow our nation’s supply of and access to biofuels, in alignment with the intent of the policy, as well as the true potential of our nation’s innovators in advanced biofuels.

In other words, the door is open once again for Pruitt to undermine the President’s commitments, and rural America must be vigilant.

Companies like POET, DuPont, Syngenta, Novozymes and Quad County Corn Processors are pioneering multi-million dollar investments aimed at ramping up cellulosic production in states like Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Ohio – all red states in 2016. Now the EPA wants to kill off those opportunities in the very same communities facing the worst agricultural crisis since the farm bust of the 1980s.

After 10 years in the Navy, I was proud to return home to Iowa and contribute to a community that is leading the country toward a brighter future. We produce more biofuels than any other state, protecting the environment and promoting U.S. self-sufficiency.  But as someone who has helped run caucuses in Howard Country, I know it also means that we hear a lot of promises. As voters, it’s our responsibility to hold office holders to account when promises aren’t kept.

President Trump vowed that the RFS would remain an “important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence” and make America “great again.” We are still at risk of seeing Mr. Pruitt shatter that promise.

Laura Hubka of Riceville, Ia., was a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. She is closely associated with the VoteVets organization.