Government

Joni Ernst speaks with Trump in effort to resolve RFS issue

Sen. Joni Ernst speaks during a fundraiser hosted by the Republican Party of Iowa on Oct. 18 at the Hughes Family Barn in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Sen. Joni Ernst speaks during a fundraiser hosted by the Republican Party of Iowa on Oct. 18 at the Hughes Family Barn in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

After speaking by phone with President Donald Trump earlier this week, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, remains convinced he wants to “work through” a decision by the Environment Protection Agency director that Iowa agriculture leaders say could lead to a further slowdown in ethanol production and more farm bankruptcies.

“The president is upset that this is not the same formula that we agreed on in the Oval Office,” Ernst told reporters Thursday. “I do think there is opportunity for correction.”

Ernst, as well as her Iowa GOP colleagues U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds, are calling on the EPA to uphold an agreement worked out last month on the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agreement called for blending 15 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel into other motor fuel.

Since then, the EPA issued rules that Iowa elected officials, corn growers and biofuels groups say will not fulfill the agreement reached with the president.

In comments submitted to the EPA, Reynolds said she left that Oval Office meeting with the understanding that “15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons.” A week later, the EPA proposed a rule that reallocated small refinery exemptions to the RFS based on federal Department of Transportation recommendations rather than actual waived gallons.

The proposed rule would have “a real and tangible impact” in Iowa, where biofuels facilities have been shuttered in Crawfordsville, Emmetsburg, Merrill and Sioux Center, she wrote.

In his comments, Grassley emphasized the economic importance of the biofuels industry in Iowa, which is the No. 1 producer of corn, ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

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“It generates nearly $5 billion of Iowa’s GDP, over $2.4 billion in household incomes and supports 47,000 jobs across Iowa,” Grassley said.

In comments she submitted Thursday, Ernst wrote “it is time again for the EPA to get this policy right, respect the president’s intent and uphold the law as it was written,” which means ensuring that 15 billion gallons of ethanol will be blended each year.

She encouraged Iowans to submit comments to the EPA because “with overwhelming support, we can fix this error.”

She added: “You know, it’s not an error. I think Andrew Wheeler, of course, did this on purpose.” Wheeler is the EPA director.

If Wheeler doesn’t act, Ernst will call for his resignation and encourage Trump, who appointed him, to join her.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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