NeGFA Sits with EPA Administrator at Common Sense Coalition

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Nebraska Visit with Common Sense Coalition

On the evening of June 14th, Nathan Brabec Vice President of the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association represented the Association with Executive Vice President Kristi Block at a meeting with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in Lincoln, Nebraska. Also, in attendance were Governor Pete Ricketts, Steve Wellman, Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Jim Macy, Director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Farm Bureau, and many of Nebraska’s grower associations and commodity boards.

Topics of discussion included the Clean Energy Act, Waters of the United States (WOTUS), and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Administrator Pruitt broke the news with the coalition of EPA’s plans to propose a new set of rules about what constitutes a Water of the United States, a proposal created under President Barack Obama, which received intense criticism from agriculture groups that said it went too far. Pruitt described the upcoming proposal as “regulatory reform” rather than “deregulation.” While Administrator Pruitt did not go into detail about the proposal, he said groundwater would not be considered a Water of the United States, as it was in the previous proposal.

He told those gathered at the table, “The voice of the farmers and ranchers across this country should be heard loud and clear because you’re the first environmentalists, you’re the first conservationists.”

The discussion then moved on to the Renewable Fuel Standards. Administrator Pruitt was reminded of the EPA’s commitment to the RFS and meeting these obligations. It was evident from the meeting that Administrator Pruitt is intent on changing the process and timing of refinery waiver exemptions. Pruitt explained that the waivers are a statuary decision, a long committee process, and it’s not only himself issuing these waivers.  Pruitt talked about the stability of RIN trade, that could be a resolution to the RFS, or E-15 push.

“I think as an industry, we support the agency’s work in looking at how to make the process more efficient so that the exemption is used only when absolutely necessary and that this usage does not hinder the production amounts required in fiscal years,” said Brabec. “However, as an industry, we also have requirements that must be met. Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the ethanol industry has a 15-billion-gallon mandate to meet. To uphold our end of the agreement, exemptions cannot and should not be used without due cause.

When questioned on how the EPA plans to regulate or create stability of the RIN trade, Pruitt answered that the administration continues to diligently work on ways and ideas that lead to improvements in the future.

Pruitt reminded the industry he is working for the farmer and understands the demand being placed not only on corn-based ethanol, but all biofuels. While Pruitt said that he supports the E15 year around requirement and wants to bring stakeholders together to find a solution, he said he can not move the ethanol issue any faster.

Shortly after this meeting, the National Corn Growers Association released the statement, “For corn farmers, what’s not included in EPA’s proposed rule says more than what’s included.

It is encouraging that EPA is following Congressional intent and proposing some growth in the RFS volumes and continuing to propose an implied 15-billion-gallon volume for conventional ethanol. However, by continuing to allow retroactive exemptions to refineries, EPA will undercut the volumes in this rule, rendering the proposed blending levels meaningless. Furthermore, the proposed rule states that EPA will not consider comments on how small refinery exemptions are accounted for.

EPA also had an opportunity to propose a remedy for the 1.6 billion gallons the agency has retroactively waived from the 2016 and 2017 volume requirements over the past year.” If EPA is going to grant retroactive waivers to cut volume requirements for certain refineries, then EPA should reallocate those gallons to others, so the obligation to blend renewable fuels is not lost.

“Every gallon of renewable fuel blending waived by EPA reduces the clean air benefits of the RFS and costs consumers choice and money at the pump, particularly today when ethanol is considerably less expensive than gasoline.”

“America’s farmers are experiencing their lowest net farm incomes since 2006, along with the increasing threat of a trade war. The EPA can provide more certainty to farmers by addressing the gallons already exempted, spelling out how future exemptions will be handled to ensure waived gallons are reallocated and moving forward with a stronger RFS that supports America’s farmers and their rural communities.”

Other Articles:

EPA Administrator Gets an Earful from Kansas Corn Farmers on Ethanol (The Fence Post)
Pruitt Says He Backs Ethanol.  Industry Calls for Him to Be Fired (Lincoln Journal Star)
EPA Waivers Total 2.25 Billion Gallons: Iowa Sen. Grassley Suggests EPA not Following Administrative Procedures Act (DTN)
Midwest Farm Groups Greet Pruitt With Cheers Over WOTUS, Jeers On Ethanol Delay (KUNC)