Trump, Pruitt scramble to appease biofuels backers

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2017

President Trump and U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reached out to Iowa’s Republican governor this morning to voice support for the renewable fuel standard in a politically dicey fight that’s threatening the president’s nominees.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said at a press conference in Pella, Iowa, that she spoke with Trump and Pruitt this morning, and “both of them personally affirmed to me their continued commitment to the renewable fuel standard.”

Reynolds acknowledged Trump and Pruitt left open the possibility of cuts, and she’s traveling to Washington next week to continue making her case.

“When I talked to the president this morning, he reiterated his commitment to the renewable fuel standard, he did,” said Reynolds, wearing a “Don’t Mess with the RFS” pin. “I felt very good after the conversation both with him and the administration.”

When pushed on why she was reassured after speaking with Pruitt, Reynolds said he reached out to her ahead of a scheduled meeting next week to voice support.

Pruitt said during the call that some of EPA’s actions are being “taken out of context” but was limited on how much he could say during a comment period on proposals to reduce blend volumes of biodiesel and some other renewable fuels (Greenwire, Oct. 5).

“He reached out to me, they are feeling the pressure and we need to keep it up,” the governor said, noting that Pruitt also met with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Farm Belt senators yesterday.

The issue is bleeding into nominations on Capitol Hill, where Senate Environmental and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is working to advance the nomination of Bill Wehrum to lead EPA’s air office.

Environmental groups and the oil industry are lobbying for lower blends. Wehrum has worked on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute, and his portfolio would include the RFS.

Amid trepidation from Republican members like Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on the panel over biofuel policy, Barrasso postponed a markup on Wehrum today. The committee has 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans.

When asked about his plans for a vote on Wehrum and several other administration picks, Barrasso today said, “The plan is to move ahead with the markup next week.”

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) put a hold on Wehrum and another EPA nominee today, citing concerns that include the RFS. The hold is mostly symbolic because nominees no longer need a supermajority to advance.

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.