Tag Archives: EPA

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a leading supporter of corn-based ethanol, says he’ll call for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation if Pruitt doesn’t work to fulfill federal ethanol mandates.

Grassley is showing frustration with Pruitt’s lack of action to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standards law.

On a conference call with agriculture reporters Tuesday Grassley said Pruitt had better follow through with ethanol mandates or “I’m going to be calling for Pruitt to resign because I’m done playing around with this.”

Grassley says President Donald Trump has committed to upholding 15 billion gallons of ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply but Pruitt has been allowing refineries to evade some of that commitment by issuing waivers. Grassley says that has reduced ethanol content to 13.8 billion gallons.

OMAHA (DTN) — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Thursday he wants to work with Congress to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard. However, he provided few answers as to why the agency approved a recent rash of small-refinery waivers.

Pruitt told the committee it was important to create transparency in the market for renewable identification numbers, or RINs, so as to reduce fraud and to understand what drives prices. RINs are biofuel credits used for compliance with the RFS. In addition, Pruitt told the committee that EPA continues to work on making E15 available year-round.

Pruitt revealed on Thursday that the agency has received more waiver requests already in 2018 than it did in 2017 and 2016, setting the 2018 number at “more than 30.” If all the waivers were granted, it would be the highest number of waivers the agency has issued in a single year.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.V., asked Pruitt what Pruitt could do to help small refiners who “can’t handle RINs” costs. Small-refinery companies have cited high RIN costs as a reason for requested waivers.

Pruitt did not directly address why the number of exemptions have been on the rise, telling the committee transparency in the RIN market is the issue.

“Congress have been very helpful in providing a waiver,” he said, pointing to a need to provide transparency in the RIN trading platform. “The RIN trading platform is causing concern. It is our hope we can chart a path forward. What’s really driving this in many respects is RINs prices; escalating RINs prices and volatility in the market.”

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said he is concerned about EPA’s unwillingness to provide additional details on small-refinery waivers.

“The EPA is a federal government agency and secrecy is not something I think EPA ought to be worried about,” Green said.

Pruitt said, “What’s really driving this in many respects is just the RIN prices, dropping to 40 cents and up to 85 cents, and the rest. You just see a lot of pressure on those small refineries in particular. It’s just escalating RIN prices and instability in the market.”

Green asked Pruitt if EPA grants waivers to facilities above 75,000 barrels per day. Only those refineries that produce 75,000 barrels per day or less qualify for waivers.

“We look at it on a facility-by-facility basis, and the statute says its 75,000 barrels; it’s subjectively determined,” Pruitt said.

RFS SUPPORT QUESTIONED

Rep. Dave Loebseck, D-Iowa, questioned Pruitt’s support for the RFS.

“During the confirmation process, you stated support for the Renewable Fuel Standard,” he said. “Over the past several weeks, information was revealed that makes me question that. I’ve heard from farmers across the country on this who are concerned. I’m extremely disappointed in the action, lack of transparency, and accountability in the process is unacceptable.”

Loebseck said the EPA administrator is required to reassign RFS gallons waived to another obligated party.

“It is my understanding the process has happened as required under statute,” Pruitt said, without providing details.

The EPA has drawn fire for a seeming lack of transparency on waivers dating back to 2016, including declining to provide details about the companies receiving waivers and the amount of biofuel blending excluded. When asked by numerous media outlets, including DTN, and by biofuel groups for details about those waivers, EPA has declined to provide information, stating that to do so would expose proprietary business information.

The agency granted nearly 40 RFS waivers to so-called small refiners since 2016, including about 25 in 2017 alone. Included in last year’s total is a request by Andeavor, which posted a $1.5 billion profit last year. Also, the New York Times reported that oil giants Exxon and Chevron have requested waivers for 2018.

Waivers granted to small refineries in 2016 and 2017 may have prevented about 1.6 billion gallons of biofuels from entering the fuel supply, according to a review of EPA data performed by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Further, the price of D6, or conventional-ethanol RINs, has fallen by 50% since mid-February from about 70 cents to 35 cents.

E15 PROCESS

When asked why it was taking so long to move to year-round E15 availability, Pruitt said the agency is trying to “ensure the legal basis” is solid, because there “will be litigation.” He said the agency plans to finish the review soon.

“I’m here to tell you farmers are very disappointed by this,” Loebseck said. “I think this program, the waiver program, is in need of oversight. We need to make sure these waivers are not abused.”

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump said publicly he supports agency action to allow year-round sales of E15.

“It is a legal determination, it is not a policy determination,” Pruitt said about E15.

In addition, a number of lawmakers continue to draft legislation to reform the RFS. On Thursday, Pruitt indicated the agency is ready to work with Congress on the law.

“I really believe Congress’ role in this is terribly important,” he said. “We need Congress and our regulatory response together.”

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said he agreed that RFS reform should come from Congress.

“I take this seriously,” he said. “I believe no matter the real intentions of the law, the best way to settle this is by statue.”

Other members of Congress, including Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have said the RFS is not in need of reform.

Democrats on the House committee spent much of Thursday’s hearing pressing Pruitt on travel and other expenditures that have raised ethics questions about his management of the agency. Pruitt also testified before the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday afternoon.

“The administration has brought secrecy and scandal to EPA,” Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said. “Clearly, you do not believe in EPA’s mission. In December you promised to be transparent. I think every indication we have is you should resign.”

WASHINGTON — Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., on Sunday defended embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, saying much of the scrutiny seems to be nitpicking.

“I don’t know how much of it is overblown and how much of it is accurate, to be honest,” Rounds said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m not going to call it fake news. I’ll say in some cases we’ll overblow something, but in this particular case Mr. Pruitt has been doing a good job as the secretary of the EPA. He is moving forward exactly as this president said he would.”

A flurry of recent stories have raised questions about some of Pruitt’s spending at the EPA and elsewhere, including pay raises to top aides without approval, a $50-a-night condo lease tied to a lobbyist, repeated first-class and chartered air travel, and a report that the EPA spent millions on a 20-member full-time security detail three times the size of his predecessor’s, and more.

The South Dakota senator attributed recent reporting on Pruitt’s actions to nitpicking.

“Oh, he has too big of a security detail? Is that suddenly the reason why you fire someone?” the senator asked.

“We’ll nitpick little things,” he added. Pruitt, according to Rounds, is being a steward of taxpayer money by cutting environmental regulations and promoting business, calling him a “big part” of the president’s agenda.

Rounds said he believes the “reason why all of the emphasis is on Mr. Pruitt right now is because he’s executing these policies” on environmental regulation promised by the Trump administration.

Trump also defended Pruitt in a tweet on Saturday, saying the secretary has “received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

Rounds’ defense of Pruitt sat in contrast to his Republican colleague Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who told CNN she thinks that “Scott Pruitt is the wrong person to lead the EPA.” Collins was the sole Republican senator to vote against Pruitt’s nomination last year.