Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, didn't come right out and say it, but he was close to calling for the resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, during a morning press call with agriculture reporters on Tuesday.
Until now Grassley had been expressing support for the Pruitt, based on the agency's regulatory rollback that includes a pending rewrite of the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. Grassley has indicated that firing Pruitt may create more problems than it would rectify, as a new nominee to head EPA would face intense opposition from Democrats.
On Tuesday, however, Grassley said because Pruitt has not implemented President Donald Trump's policy preferences for the Renewable Fuel Standard, the senator may soon be calling for Pruitt's resignation.
Namely, the EPA has been approving a record number of RFS small refinery waivers since 2016. This has led to fewer gallons being blended and the price of renewable identification numbers, or RIN, to fall.
Grassley was asked by agriculture reporters on Tuesday if he believes EPA will scale back on granting small refinery waivers.
"They better or I'm going to be calling on Pruitt to resign because I'm done playing around with this," Grassley said, citing the commitment Trump made as a candidate speaking to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. "He said we ought to be following the law."
At the time, Trump said the EPA should follow RFS biofuel volume obligations set out in the law by Congress.
"We fought to get these RVOs to 15 billion gallons then you have this liberal use of waivers and it's down to 13.8 (billion gallons)," Grassley said.
Later on Tuesday, Grassley took to Twitter to reiterate the need for Pruitt to follow through on Trump's RFS commitments.
"I've supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses," Grassley tweeted.
"1/19/16 Trump at IA Renewable fuels summit: EPA shld make sure blend levels match statutory level set by Congress THAT'S 15B GALLONS/Pruitt shld work hard to make sure he doesn't undercut the president's support of ethanol."
Also on Twitter, Grassley spokesperson Michael Zona said even if the number of waivers granted continued to increase, the EPA has the authority to reassign ethanol gallons lost.
"For true hardship cases, if Pruitt wanted to meet the 15B gallon Trump promise, he could reassign the waived RVOs to current or future years, or issue them on the front end for previous years without causing 'demand destruction,' as @SecretarySonny calls it," Zona tweeted.
"So I'm sick and tired of messing around with this anymore," Grassley said during the news conference on Tuesday. "Trump was elected with an agenda. Pruitt was not elected and it's Pruitt's job to carry out the Trump agenda."
Grassley was asked whether it was his understanding the E15 approval would happen before the June 1 cutoff date for sales. He said EPA was going to try to make it apply for this summer, but the senator recognized the time restrictions the agency would be facing.
"Does it have to be by regulation or by interpretation and those sort of things that make a difference?," he said. "So we were just told they were going to try to make it happen."
EPA also is looking for a way to create more transparency in the RINs market and may open up a proposed comment period on a possible rule change.
"I'm for more transparency and I don't think we need to have any comments about it," Grassley said. "Pruitt's got the authority to make it more transparent and we ought to have the CFTC weigh in on this."
Grassley said that four or five years ago there was a memorandum of understanding between EPA and the Commodity Futures Trading Corp. to ensure speculators were not controlling the price of RINs.
The White House reportedly is working on a memorandum to outline a number of administrative changes to the RFS.
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this blog.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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