Perdue and Wheeler hype partnership amid strife

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2020

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue declared themselves friends and partners today, even as their agencies struggle to agree on some issues important to farmers.

The environmental agency is “not an enemy; it’s a friend,” Perdue said in introducing Wheeler to state agriculture officials at USDA headquarters and citing EPA’s rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. regulation.

“I’m happy to have him as a partner,” Perdue said.

Perdue acknowledged the criticism EPA has taken on renewable fuels, over issues such as increased biofuel blending waivers granted to some refineries. But even on biofuel policy, he said, “the whole thing’s going to end well in that regard.”

At USDA, Perdue recently announced a goal to make biofuels 30% of the fuel supply by 2050.

Perdue didn’t stay for Wheeler’s address in an indoor courtyard of USDA’s headquarters, leaving immediately after introducing him. The administrator arrived late, leaving Perdue to take extra questions from attendees while he waited.

Wheeler touted EPA’s actions during his tenure, including advancing year-round availability of E15 fuel, replacing the WOTUS rule and revamping policies under the National Environmental Policy Act.

NEPA, he said, “was not meant to be legal aid for attorneys.”

Wheeler also noted approvals for new pathways for sorghum to qualify for aspects of the RFS.

Under questioning from Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, Wheeler said the agency continues work to ease the way for E15 sales. He declined to comment on small refinery waivers, saying the agency is weighing the implications of a federal court decision saying waivers shouldn’t be granted to refineries that haven’t received them in the past.