White House Calls off RFS Deal

Trump Tells Iowa Lawmakers He Won't Sign Deal That's Bad for Farmers

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Potential changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard have been put on hold. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The White House pulled an expected proposal outlining changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard on Tuesday, after two senators from Iowa called out EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for not upholding President Donald Trump's support of renewable fuels.

Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley stepped up the rhetoric on Pruitt. In a news conference with agriculture reporters on Tuesday, Grassley said the administrator had "betrayed" the president when it comes to the agency's granting numerous small-refinery waivers to the RFS. At a separate energy press event on Tuesday, Ernst told an audience Pruitt was "breaking our president's promise to farmers."

The White House reportedly was set to announce a compromise of sorts between ethanol and oil interests. It was to include allowing year-round E15 sales, possibly attaching renewable identification numbers, or RINs, to ethanol exports, as well as finding a remedy to the waivers issue.

The deal has been put on hold for now, with no apparent timeline to revisit the issue.

"Pres Trump helped farmers by rejecting bad ethanol deal," Grassley tweeted on Tuesday night. "I appreciate. GREAT NEWS"

Ernst said in a tweet Tuesday night, "@realDonaldTrump has said he 'looovves the farmers!' #Iowa is feeling that love today, as the President just assured me he 'won't sign a deal that's bad for farmers!' Thank you, Mr. President!"

Frank Maisano, a senior principal at Bracewell LLP, who represents oil interests in Washington, D.C., said he believes the administration eventually will find a solution to benefit both sides.

"Sens. (Ted) Cruz, (R-Texas), Pat Toomey, (R-Pa.), John Barrasso, (R-Wyo.) and others have been as strong a voice in this discussion as Iowa's senators," he said.

"And don't forget, the president has heard the voices of hard-working union refinery workers that helped elect him," Maisano said. "We fully expect the president will deliver a common sense, win-win plan that provides new markets and opportunities for ethanol advocates and much-needed relief for refinery workers."

Emily Skor, CEO for Growth Energy, said in a statement to DTN there needs to be a better solution.

"At a time when farmers are facing the most challenging farm economy since the 1980s, we thank President Trump, Secretary (Sonny) Perdue, and Sens. Grassley and Ernst for standing firm for rural America," she said. "We look forward to refocusing this conversation towards ways to help improve farm income and expand access to lower cost biofuels, which will benefit drivers facing higher prices at the pump."

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said: "We are happy the president continues to recognize the importance of our industry to America's farmers and rural economies across the nation. We look forward to working with the administration to remove regulatory barriers to continued growth."

Ethanol and agriculture groups have filed lawsuits and have petitioned EPA, in attempt to force the agency to change the way it grants waivers to the RFS.

It has come to light in recent months that the agency has handed out more than 40 waivers in 2016 and 2017 and has received numerous requests for 2018. In addition, the EPA announced it is reviewing previous waiver denials for possible retroactive approvals.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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(ES/AG)

Todd Neeley