President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, apparently satisfied two United States senators from Iowa that not only would his agency cut back federal regulation harming the countryside, but would in fact follow the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Pruitt's nomination is under a Midwest microscope because as Oklahoma attorney general he was a known critic of the RFS and has connections to the oil and gas industry.
A number of senators met with Pruitt Thursday in Washington, including Iowa Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst. Grassley and Ernst have said they would hold Pruitt's feet to the fire on the RFS.
After the meetings, both senators said in news releases they came away encouraged Pruitt would uphold the RFS. While the American Farm Bureau Federation this week endorsed Pruitt, Grassley said he would hold judgement until the confirmation hearings.
"We got a very positive response on Mr. Pruitt's support not just for the RFS but more importantly, for the rule of law," Grassley said in a statement.
"The rule of law is that what Congress passed, the EPA is supposed to follow and not undermine it, the way the current administration has done with the RFS. The purpose of the meeting was to convey the contributions that Iowa and other renewable energy-producing states contribute to the economy and otherwise.
"From the standpoint of what President-elect Trump wants to accomplish, renewable energy supports a high number of jobs, 43,000 jobs in Iowa just with biofuels and another 7,000 jobs in wind energy. We have to import less oil from the Mideast because we have a very vibrant ethanol industry. As far as whether I'll support the nomination, I tend to wait for nomination hearings before making up my mind. We got a positive comment that the law's going to be followed, and that's very, very important."
Ernst said in a statement she talked to Pruitt about a wide range of EPA issues affecting rural America.
"I greatly appreciate Mr. Pruitt's time today to visit about a number of important issues to Iowans from scrapping the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, to our state's wind energy industry, to upholding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in accordance with congressional intent," she said.
"In regards to RFS, it is imperative that the law is followed. I received assurances from Mr. Pruitt that he intends to do so, and I will hold him to that commitment. I was pleased to hear that President-elect Trump made it clear to Mr. Pruitt that he cares about the RFS. Mr. Pruitt told me in our meeting that the role of the EPA is to enforce the law as written by Congress, and not undermine the RFS...
"...We also discussed increasing concerns over the environmental regulations coming out of the EPA. Overall, we had a thoughtful conversation about the need to do everything possible to fix these federal overreaches and get the EPA back on track to operating within the congressional intent of our laws, acknowledging the federal-state partnerships that exist and faithfully considering the comments of the public."
According to a news release from Ernst the senator invited Pruitt to visit an Iowa ethanol plant and "see the impact WOTUS could have on farmers, landowners and small businesses.
"Similarly, Sen. Ernst previously invited the current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to Iowa to see the potential impact of overregulation in Iowa. Administrator McCarthy has yet to take Senator Ernst up on this offer."
Also on Thursday, a number of convenience store and truck stop operators groups issued a statement on the senators' efforts to reach out to Pruitt. The nominee also met with Sens. John Thune, South Dakota; Mike Rounds, South Dakota; Deb Fischer, Nebraska; Roy Blunt, Missouri; and Pat Roberts, Kansas.
The National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, and the National Association of Convenience Stores offered the following statement:
"NATSO, SIGMA, and NACS applaud Sens. Grassley, Thune, Ernst, Rounds, Fischer, Blunt, and Roberts for their commitment to keeping fuel prices low for consumers and supporting a robust economy. We're encouraged by their meeting with Scott Pruitt, President-elect Trump's choice to run the EPA that included ensuring the Renewable Fuel Standard will continue to foster domestic energy independence and spur renewable energy use.
"As the EPA weighs the status of the program this year, it is important to keep the compliance requirements for the renewable fuel standard with refiners and importers. It's good for businesses that sell fuel and it's good for consumers who buy it. Maintaining the current point of obligation would also make good on President-elect Trump's campaign pledge to simplify the regulatory process, support rural America, and continue the progress made with the RFS."
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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