Lawmakers react to EPA’s final rule on renewable fuel standards

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU/AP) — Some farm groups and farm-state lawmakers expressed anger at the Trump administration Thursday over final ethanol rules that they said failed to uphold the president’s promises to the industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency released its final renewable fuel standard but it did not include language that President Donald Trump agreed to in meetings with industry officials, Iowa’s governor and congressional representatives during September and October.

Lawmakers from the tristate area reacted to the news.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa:

Once again, EPA is playing games and not helping President Trump with farmers. An agreement was reached on September 12 in an Oval Office meeting between several Midwest leaders, President Trump and other members of his Administration. This does not reflect what we agreed to in that meeting. Simply requiring that the three-year rolling average be based on hard data and actual waived gallons rather than Department of Energy recommendations and EPA discretion would solve this problem and ensure the renewable volume obligations are met. Administrator Wheeler has put the president in a bad situation by not following the law as intended by Congress and as the president has promised to uphold

No matter what EPA says about the impact of its waivers to oil companies making billions in profits, farmers and biofuels producers know and feel the negative impact of the agency’s actions. I will hold EPA’s feet to the fire to make certain they abide by the Department of Energy’s recommendations and ensure integrity in the RFS. Whether that happens is up to Administrator Wheeler and the president’s support among farmers is in his hands. The magic words from the Oval Office meeting were three-year rolling average based on hard data and actual waived gallons. Abiding by this would have solved all the problem’s EPA has created.

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa:

Throughout this process, I, along with Senator Grassley and Governor Reynolds have made it crystal clear that Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers need certainty that EPA will follow the law. After shaking hands in the Oval Office this fall, EPA had an opportunity to restore the broken trust of farmers and to follow through on the president’s commitment, but it appears they’ve missed the mark…again. We were guaranteed a deal in September, and we were assured of that same deal in October, yet EPA rolled out, and has now finalized, a different proposal. It’s no wonder trust has been lost.

While I’m hopeful we get to the 15 billion or more gallons of ethanol that we’ve been promised, I clearly understand the hesitation from Iowans to trust the word of EPA to actually follow through on that commitment. I believe President Trump wants to do right for the biofuels community – we’ve seen that with E15 year-round and most recently the biodiesel tax incentive. But Administrator Wheeler should know: this is not the end. I will continue to fight tirelessly to make sure that my fellow Iowans have a seat at the table when it comes to renewable fuels. We will keep holding EPA’s feet to the fire to ensure they truly uphold the RFS, the law, as intended and fully implement the other critical aspects of this rule.

Sen. Joni Ernst

Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa’s 2nd District:

The final RFS rule set forth by the EPA is another slap in the face to Iowa’s farmers and ethanol producers. It does nothing to stop the vast misuse of the small refinery exemptions, which only serves to erode the RFS and destroy demand for clean, renewable fuel, like ethanol. From Trump’s Twitter Trade War to his continuing to side with big oil over our farmers, this is just another in a long list of attacks on our rural communities by this administration. I will continue to stand up for our farmers and producers and fight to restore the integrity of the RFS.

Rep. Dave Loebsack

Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa’s 1st District:

Iowa’s biofuels producers and farmers have suffered enough this year from the president’s trade war, to taking the side of big oil and refinery waivers. Today, we have a final rule from the administration that fails to take into account legitimate bipartisan concerns and feedback from our nation’s actual ethanol and biodiesel producers. Once again we see the president has no intention of making good on the promises he has made to Iowans in the past to stop attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard. Iowans shouldn’t be losing jobs because of the Trump administration’s EPA policies and lack of leadership from the president.

Rep. Abby Finkenauer

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds:

EPA’s actions continue to disappoint and it’s understandable why they have lost credibility with the people of Iowa. While we agree on the end goal of 15 billion gallons, this final rule allows those numbers to be too easily disregarded. And even more important, it’s already negatively impacting the lives of Iowans as biofuels plants are closing and our farmers are losing an important market. I appreciate the President’s continued engagement on this issue and I will continue to fight for renewable volumes that align with federal law, support our farmers and our state’s economy. EPA Administrator Wheeler should know we are not done holding him to the agreement we reached with President Trump in the Oval Office on September 12th.

Gov. Kim Reynolds

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw:

President Trump turned his back on certainty for farmers and failed to keep the September 12 deal. Instead of certainty, we are essentially being told to trust the EPA to uphold the RFS in the future even though for the past three years the EPA has routinely undermined the program. Every farmer and biofuel supporter I have talked to is deeply disappointed, frustrated, and quite frankly angry. I don’t think the White House truly understands the depth of discontent in farm country.

Under today’s rule, stated RFS levels will only be truly met if EPA adheres to DOE’s recommendations for SREs and does not grant additional SRE volumes as they have done in the past. Therefore, the market will not know for sure what the effective RFS blend levels are until after SREs are adjudicated months after a compliance year is over.

IRFA today called upon the EPA to immediately post DOE recommendations – past, present and future – on their SRE website dashboard. Market participants must have faith in the process and must know whether or not EPA is following the DOE recommendations. Further, to prevent any entity from gaming the system, this information should be made public to all market participants at the same time. In just a few months, EPA will begin adjudicating the 2019 compliance year SREs. It will be their first opportunity to demonstrate good faith and we’ll be watching very, very closely.

Monte Shaw

Iowa Biodiesel Executive Director Grant Kimberley:

The EPA rule does not provide positive signals to a market longing for assurance. EPA’s actions have already decimated demand for more than 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel, including biodiesel and renewable diesel. With this final rule, the agency has once again declined to uphold the integrity of a federal law meant to encourage the use of renewable fuels in America, siding with oil company interests at the expense of family farmers. Ten biodiesel producers have closed their doors or drastically cut production due to loss of demand.

In addition to our discouragement over lack of growth, the industry does not have confidence in EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s plan for estimating future small refinery exemptions, based on EPA’s past actions. There is no assurance these exemptions will be brought under control or properly accounted for. Meanwhile, we stand ready to meet continued sustainable growth of several hundred million gallons every year. We hope to work with EPA and the administration to set a course for substantial growth in future years.

Grant Kimberley

Democrat nominee running for U.S. Senate Theresa Greenfield:

The administration’s latest announcement that it is refusing to restore lost biofuels demand because of waivers to Big Oil is one more sign that Iowa farmers can’t trust Senator Joni Ernst and her allies to hold Washington accountable. Instead of growing a backbone and calling on the lobbyists running the EPA and hurting our farmers to resign, Senator Ernst refuses to take meaningful action after voting to confirm them to their positions in the first place. Our state deserves a real leader who will fight for us and put Iowa first, not Washington politics.

Theresa Greenfield

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska:

I appreciate the Nebraskans—including our farmers and ethanol producers— who made their voices heard and submitted comments to EPA. Like many of them, I am disappointed in this announcement because it differs from the commitment made to my colleagues and me this fall that the 15 billion gallon obligation would be met using a 3-year rolling average of actual waived gallons. Instead, the EPA has chosen to use their own discretion and the Department of Energy’s recommendations when determining waived gallons, despite their track record of disregarding these recommendations.

While the final rule is still an improvement over the previous one, I am, and I know Nebraskans are, wary that the EPA will follow the law and meet these obligations like they say they will. President Trump cares about farmers and has made big promises to rural America. I will continue to work to make sure those promises are fulfilled.

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska:

This is a disappointment. We made some real progress at a White House meeting that President Trump, EPA Administrator Wheeler, and Senators Fischer, Grassley, Ernst and I attended, but the EPA is doing something different. Nobody there agreed to this and, once again, the EPA is asking us to trust them to do the right thing. Like a lot of Nebraskans, I am skeptical about how the EPA is going to implement this.

Sen. Ben Sasse

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts:

Today’s announcement from the EPA does not include the structural changes we requested in our comments on the draft rule,” said Governor Ricketts.  “President Trump has promised 15 billion gallons, and we will be watching closely to see how the EPA enforces the final rule to ensure this level is blended as required by law.  We will hold the EPA’s feet to the fire if they fall short of delivering on the President’s promise of 15 billion gallons to our farm families.

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson

While EPA claims this new rule will ensure the agency meets the Congressionally mandated goal of blending 15 billion gallons of biofuels into our nations fuel supply in 2020, we still have great concerns about EPA having previously granted an excessive number of waivers relieving oil refiners of their legal obligations to blend biofuels. We are disappointed EPA did not incorporate changes Nebraska Farm Bureau had requested to improve EPA’s accounting of the allowable volume of exemptions. By not making those changes EPA is asking us to trust they will meet the blend target. With that said, we are in the ‘trust but verify’ mode and remain committed to ensuring that 15 billion gallons of blended biofuels as mandated by Congress translates to 15 billion gallons of blended biofuels.

Steve Nelson

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota:

The administration has committed to reaching 15 billion gallons of ethanol-blended fuel next year, and South Dakota will hold them to it. This final rule unfortunately falls short of the deal we reached in the Oval Office, and while the proof will be in the implementation, I am glad that EPA has at least recognized the compounded hardships the last three years of small refinery exemptions have placed on farm country. In addition to reducing the number of waivers and having more accountability, I am pleased to see EPA taking additional steps to build off our win to permit the year-round sale of E15, like by supporting an infrastructure program and reducing labeling requirements.

Sen. John Thune

Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota:

President Trump has made clear that he expects the EPA to follow through on his commitment to farmers by meeting the 15 billion gallon requirement under the RFS. I heard it firsthand during multiple meetings with the president at the White House.

I understand the hesitation of South Dakota corn and corn ethanol producers to trust that the EPA will follow through on this commitment. While the final rule fails to provide a guarantee, the EPA has committed to using the tools available to make sure 15 billion gallons of ethanol is blended into our fuel supply in 2020. You can be sure we’ll be holding their feet to the fire.

Sen. Mike Rounds

Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota’s At-Large District:

EPA’s announcement is an improvement in restoring integrity for the RFS, but there is much more work to be done to undo the Small Refinery Exemption abuses and the demand destruction SRE’s have caused South Dakota’s ethanol industry. I will continue to work with the administration to remove regulatory barriers and encourage ethanol exports across the world.

Rep. Dusty Johnson

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem:

President Trump made a promise to South Dakota farmers, and the rule the EPA announced today fails to hit that mark. I appreciate the EPA’s efforts to bolster ethanol production across the country, but South Dakota producers deserve better. I will be communicating with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and President Trump on this issue.

While this rule needs more work, I’m grateful to the administration for fighting for American farmers and ranchers. I am glad to see the EPA building off our win to permit year-round sales of E-15 in their work to develop an infrastructure program. Increased ethanol production is absolutely critical for South Dakota producers as recent years have seen lower commodity prices and unstable market conditions.

Gov. Kristi Noem

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