As the United States Senate continues to move toward confirming Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator, one ethanol interest group is calling on lawmakers to ask for proof the agency is moving on two issues important to ethanol before voting.
The Senate Environment and Public Works committee is scheduled to take a vote on Wheeler on Feb. 5, then moving the nomination to the full Senate.
During a Jan. 16 confirmation hearing before the committee, Wheeler said the EPA still was on track to finalize an E15 rule ahead of the summer driving season that begins on June 1. He told the committee the agency had not been working on the rule during the recent partial government shutdown.
In a letter sent to Senators on Tuesday, American Coalition for Ethanol Chief Executive Officer Brian Jennings suggests Wheeler needs to provide more information on the ethanol issues.
"I write to encourage you to secure tangible documentation from Mr. Wheeler that EPA will resolve two critically important issues before casting your confirmation vote: finalizing a legally-defensible Reid vapor pressure rule to allow E15 use year-round before June 1, and reallocating ethanol blending obligations waived for 2016 and 2017 through the small refinery exemption provision of the Renewable Fuel Standard," Jennings writes.
"I urge you hold Acting Administrator Wheeler to this high standard because of the harm done to renewable fuels by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt."
On Jan. 16, Wheeler told the committee the agency would continue to look at each individual waiver request. In 2016 and 2017, the agency granted a total of 48 waivers. As a result, EPA has estimated that 2.25 billion gallons of biofuels were not blended during that time.
Wheeler said the agency hopes to have three proposals released in February, including the E15 rule, a possible reset of the RFS, as well as a proposal to make alterations to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.
"EPA's broken promises and abuse of the RFS compel Acting Administrator Wheeler to repair the damage by reallocating the blending obligations and finalizing a legally defensible rule to allow E15 use year-round before June 1," Jennings said in the letter.
During Wheeler's January Senate hearing, he indicated the E15 rule may be delayed because of the shutdown.
Jennings writes the shutdown "is not a credible excuse" for a delay.
"In fact, recent history proves the Trump administration can expedite high-priority rulemakings," the letter said.
Jennings points to the USDA's newly proposed work requirements for recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits, as an example of how rulemaking can be expedited. In December, the Senate pushed House conferees to drop new food stamp work requirements from the final farm bill.
"In response, to secure enough Republican votes in the House of Representatives to pass the farm bill conference report, USDA put forward a rulemaking to impose the work requirements through executive action," Jennings writes.
"The farm bill conference report was adopted by Congress on Dec. 12. The president waited to sign the farm bill until Dec. 20, the same day USDA published the SNAP work requirement rulemaking. In just eight days USDA was able to issue a rule at the direction of the president to fulfill a promise to Republicans in the House of Representatives."
As a result, Jennings said, EPA's delay on the E15 rule is unexplainable.
"It has been more than 100 days since the president directed EPA to initiate a rulemaking to allow E15 use year-round," the letter said.
"What is taking EPA so long to act? There is no better way to guarantee the RVP rule and reallocation of refinery waivers are addressed than by insisting Mr. Wheeler provide tangible evidence of his intentions on these issues prior to voting to confirm him."
Read the ACE letter here: https://app.box.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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