It started sounding like a political game of chicken, but Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, came pretty close to telling Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt he want Pruitt gone during Grassley’s weekly conference call with agricultural reporters May 15.
Asked if he thought EPA would stop issuing waivers to small refiners on the Renewable Fuel Standard, Grassley said, “They better, or I’m going to be calling for Pruitt to resign, because I’m done playing around with this. We know the commitment the president made back in January 2016 when he spoke to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. He said we ought to be following the law.
“(Trump) said, ‘The EPA ought to ensure that the RVOs or blend levels match the statutory levels set by Congress under the RFS.’ This is 15 billion gallons. That’s what the law says. And beyond 15 million from cellulosic, it’s something like 16.5 billion or something. We fought to get those RVOs at 15 billion, then you have this liberal use of waivers and it’s done to 13.8 or something.”
Later in the day, Grassley tweeted, "I’ve supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses.
"1/19/16 Trump at IA Renewable fuels summit: EPA should make sure blend levels match statutory level set by Congress THAT’S 15B GALLONS/Pruitt should work hard to make sure he doesn’t undercut the president’s support of ethanol."
Grassley spokesman Michael Zona, in a follow-up email, said, “If administrator Pruitt refuses to follow the spirit of the law—Congressional intent—then he is breaking his word to lawmakers and he’s breaking the president’s commitment to 15 billion gallons for ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“If administrator Pruitt isn’t committed to keeping his promises, isn’t committed to following the law as intended by Congress and isn’t committed to implementing the president’s agenda, he should step aside and let someone else do the job.”
In another question, Grassley was asked about how EPA was seeking ways to create more transparency in the Renewable Identification Number market and may open up a proposed comment period on a possible rule change.
"I’m for more transparency and I don’t think we need to have any comments about it," Grassley said. "Pruitt’s got the authority to make it more transparent and we ought to have the CFTC weigh in on this.
“And don’t forget, about four years ago, maybe five years ago there was a memorandum of understanding between EPA and CFTC on this whole business of transparency or—another way to put it—transparency to stop speculation but to make sure speculators weren’t controlling the price of RINs. I guess all I can rely on is a good faith effort to deliver on the president’s promise. “
Grassley was asked whether it was his understanding the E15 approval would happen before the June 1 cutoff date for sales. Grassley said EPA was going to try to make it apply for this summer, but Grassley noted the time restrictions EPA would be facing.
"Does it have to be by regulation or by interpretation and those sort of things that make a difference," Grassley asked. "So we were just told they were going to try to make it happen."
Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].