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Ernst, Grassley Oppose Energy Department Nominee, Call for Greater Transparency of “Gap Year” Small Refinery Waiver Process

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), longtime champions for Iowa’s renewable fuel industry, today voted against the nominee for Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. Following their opposition, the senators are continuing their push for greater transparency and certainty for Iowa’s farmers and producers, asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide the public with information on DOE's score of each petition and when the score recommendation was transmitted back to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Given the uncertainty with the ‘gap year’ small refinery waivers, the wasted time and resources to score the waivers again, the lack of transparency in the entire process, and most importantly, the toll this has taken on Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, we could not in good faith support Mr. Menezes at this time,” said Senators Ernst and Grassley.    
In their letter , Senators Ernst and Grassley write, “Since your last correspondence, we have learned of six more petitions for SREs that EPA has asked DOE to score. Granting these petitions would increase the pain facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that biofuels support. These petitions threaten to undercut the RFS and fail to meet the standard set by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision on the use of SREs. The EPA's decision to send them to DOE for a technical analysis erodes the public's trust in the rule of law and the ability for the EPA and DOE to faithfully implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).”
The senators go on to ask, “We are concerned DOE wasted valuable time and resources to score these petitions again. We now understand that all petitions have been sent back to EPA and that this was a demand from oil-state senators for your nomination to be considered. We have concerns this process is not transparent and does not promote accountability in government…We also request that you provide the public with information on DOE's score of each petition and when the score recommendation was transmitted back to EPA.”
To read the full letter, click here.
On June 26 th, Senators Ernst and Grassley sent a letter to Menezes requesting information on the technical analysis of SREs at DOE. Menezes responded to their inquiry and stated that they had received petitions from EPA that had already been scored by DOE.
In May, Ernst led a bipartisan effort urging the Trump Administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reject requests for the RFS to be waived.
In June, Ernst announced she would block the nomination of Doug Benevento, the nominee to be the Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and any other EPA nominee until the agency discloses how they plan to address the 52 “gap year” waivers.
Ernst also joined Grassley and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on bipartisan legislation to support biofuel producers negatively affected by the pandemic.
Last week, Ernst called on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to certify biofuel infrastructure for E15 and remove unnecessary labeling which will increase consumer access to E15 – a cleaner, cheaper choice at the pump.