Ernst declares victory in Renewable Fuel Standard squabble with EPA

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DAVENPORT — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was declaring victory late Thursday, after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt notified her and other lawmakers it’s likely that volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard will remain the same or go higher than where they were set in July.

Pruitt made the comments in a letter dated Thursday that was sent to a group of farm state senators.

The letter comes a day after Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump directed the EPA to back off proposals that could have lowered biodiesel amounts and counted ethanol exports toward the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The EPA floated the possibility last month, and since then the biofuels industry and its allies in Washington, D.C., have been heavily pressuring the EPA to back off.

In addition to his comments on volume requirements, Pruitt said in the letter he has directed the agency to finalize within 30 days an earlier decision not to move the “point of obligation” away from refiners to comply with the RFS. Some refiners, led by Carl Icahn, had sought the change.

“These assurances are a clear win for Iowans,” Ernst said in a statement late Thursday. “Echoing the president’s commitment to advancing the full potential of the RFS to benefit rural America is welcome at a time when our family farms are struggling with commodity prices that are below the cost of production.”

Ernst, a member of a Senate committee that oversees EPA nominations, had warned she would stand in the way if the biofuel cuts moved forward.

Consideration of a nominee to a high-ranking post at EPA was put off earlier this week in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee after Ernst expressed reservations.

Immediately after the potential moves were announced in September, Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the Senate’s senior members, called it a “bait and switch” and complained loudly about the potential cuts.

He spoke with Trump about the matter, and that led to a meeting with Pruitt earlier this week with a number of Midwest senators.

Grassley and other biofuels advocates said the EPA was undercutting the president’s promise during the 2016 campaign that he’d support the RFS.

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