Op-Ed: We will never stop fighting to protect the RFS and Iowa

Source: By Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Quad City Times • Posted: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ethanol plant
An ethanol plant stands next to a cornfield near Nevada, Iowa. AP

Recently, this paper’s editorial board wrote a misguided editorial, and we felt it was important to set the record straight as well as stand up for the majority of Iowans who voted in the last election whose judgment was mocked in the piece. Whether it’s working for the extension of tax credits to support production, fighting trade barriers to U.S. biofuels from other countries, or pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fulfill its statutory obligations on biofuels, we fight for ethanol, biodiesel, and Iowa every day.

A big part of upholding the rule of law in any area is staying on top of actions from unelected agency leaders who have a lot of power to wreak havoc with regulations. The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule from the Obama Administration is a prime example of a regulation that badly over-reached. After an outcry from farmers, home builders, Congress and the voters who elected a new president, the EPA has finally begun the process to withdraw this rule.

Those of us from biofuels-producing states constantly have to fight for federal agencies to follow the rule of law on biofuels. President Obama’s EPA often did not fulfill its obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which sets the level of renewables in the nation’s fuel supply. It repeatedly fell sway to arguments from Big Oil that biofuels producers were unable to produce the needed capacity to contribute to the fuel supply. We called out that hogwash. And we’re calling out the newest hogwash from the EPA on biodiesel.

 The EPA’s latest proposal to reduce biodiesel levels is a bait and switch from what the agency put out in July. The July proposal, while not great, essentially did no harm to biodiesel. The new proposal came from nowhere, blindsided biodiesel producers, and has the potential to do great harm.

The proposal specifically cites, a number of times, proposals from oil producer Valero and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the refiners. That reveals that Big Oil may be prevailing at the EPA yet again.

We are already fighting the EPA on what it is proposing, and we are going to keep fighting.
We each have already contacted President Trump. The EPA’s move is counter to what the President has pledged, last year and even a few weeks ago, for renewable fuels. As candidate Trump and as President Trump, he has repeatedly expressed support for the RFS. That means the EPA administrator who works for the President has to follow his boss’s lead.

When Scott Pruitt was nominated as the EPA Administrator, we organized a meeting with him to emphasize the importance of biofuels to job creation, energy security, the environment, and meeting the country’s significant energy needs. Since we had been disappointed by the Obama Administration’s lack of strong support in implementing the RFS, we wanted to know where Mr. Pruitt stood.

We received a very positive response on Mr. Pruitt’s support not just for the RFS but more importantly, for the rule of law. The rule of law is the measures Congress passed. The EPA is supposed to follow it, not undermine it. We conveyed the tremendous contributions that Iowa and other renewable energy-producing states contribute to the economy, energy security, and much more. We reiterated that from the standpoint of what then-President-elect Trump wanted to accomplish, renewable energy supports a high number of jobs, including 43,000 jobs in Iowa in just biofuels and another 7,000 jobs in wind energy.

Mr. Pruitt committed at that meeting and again during a public hearing to following the law. He needs to keep his word and follow the clear direction from his boss, the President, that biofuels are valuable and that the EPA must follow the RFS. Toward that end, we will continue to make sure the EPA and the President hear loud and clear the impact the latest EPA proposal on biodiesel would have on Iowa’s corn and soybean farmers, on biofuel producers, and on our rural communities. We will never stop fighting to protect the RFS and Iowa.

 Grassley and Ernst, both Republicans, represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate.