Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, heard it repeatedly during his annual 99-county tour of his state: anger from farmers about President Donald Trump's lack of action taken on small-refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The most recent DTN Ag Confidence Index found approval of Trump was still strong but waning in rural America.
Grassley said during a Tuesday news conference with agricultural journalists, he believes the Trump campaign has done enough to win the rural vote when the EPA rejected 54 of 68 small-refinery exemptions on Monday.
"No they don't need to do anything else because all I've heard all summer is about these waivers and people disgusted about them, and disgusted because the Trump administration has not answered and heard threats that it was going to be real difficult for a lot of corn farmers to vote for the president," Grassley said.
"The president took care of that. You couldn't ask for the president to do any more, to take the uncertainty of farmers that they might have had about, is Trump really ethanol or is it just a big fake. This ought to give the assurance that anybody needs. By delivering on this, Trump would take air out of the Democrats hoping the president wouldn't deliver."
The U.S. Department of Energy still has 14 pending exemption requests it has yet to send to EPA. Grassley said he expects those exemptions also to be rejected by the decision handed down by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
"It should be noted that every waiver request went through detailed review process by both the EPA and the Department of Energy," Grassley said. "So evidently Wheeler was right when he said they had to consider them."
Back on Jan. 24 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled the EPA should not have granted exemptions to three small refineries, because those refineries had not been granted exemptions prior.
In a letter to the 17 refiners that requested the retroactive exemptions, Wheeler said EPA is following the 10th Circuit decision.
"Those small refineries have not provided any new information that would necessitate EPA changing its prior decisions for those RFS compliance years," Wheeler said. "DOE and EPA thoroughly and carefully evaluated the petitions for those years at the time, and EPA has found nothing in these new submissions that would merit a change in those previous decisions.
"These small refineries did not demonstrate then or now that they experienced disproportionate economic hardship from compliance with the RFS program and do not warrant an exemption for those RFS compliance years."
Wheeler said EPA could not grant the exemptions, because "if such hardship was occurring in those prior RFS compliance years, these small refineries likely would have petitioned for relief in each of those preceding RFS compliance years."
The DOE recommended up to 50% relief for some small refiners, but Wheeler said in the letter, "EPA doubts that Congress intended to exempt small refineries that already successfully complied with their RFS obligations many years past without demonstrating that they experienced disproportionate economic hardship as a result of that compliance.
"This decision is a nationally applicable final agency action for purposes of CAA. In the alternative, EPA finds that this final action is based on a determination of nationwide scope or effect for purposes of CAA (Clean Air Act)."
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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