Yesterday, U.S. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, made clear that she would not support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nominee for a role that directly oversees the implementation of the RFS until the EPA could provide “strong reassurances on biofuel volumes and the EPA’s commitment to follow both the letter and the spirit of the RFS, as well as a commitment to not pursue other policies harmful to our farmers across Iowa.” Ernst represents a key vote on the committee and while she feels that a deal is getting closer, she will continue to hold the EPA’s feet to the fire until the assurances are confirmed.

 

Below is a quick round up of some of the press coverage….

 

Omaha World-Herald:

“Ernst was straightforward about her role in prompting the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to cancel Wednesday’s vote on several Environmental Protection Agency nominees. Those nominees included Bill Wehrum, who has been tapped to head the office that administers the renewable fuel program. A member of the committee, Ernst said she found Wehrum’s answers ‘pretty darn squishy’ when she pressed him on support for renewable fuels. ‘I told them outright I would not support him if I didn’t have assurances,’ she said, then noted that Republicans have a razor-thin 11-10 advantage on the panel. ‘One vote makes a difference.’” (Ernst: Trump, EPA taking steps in right direction on renewable fuels, 10/19/2017)

 

Watch the KCRG-TV report HERE.

 

POLITICO:

“It seems President Donald Trump’s administration made significant progress Wednesday toward appeasing a bloc of corn-state Republicans blocking EPA nominees over the agency’s actions on biofuels, but the small-yet-powerful group proved over the last two days that they have significant power to throw sands in the gears of the president’s agenda if they want.” (Lessons from biofuels fight as progress reported, 10/19/2017)

 

Senator Ernst on KASI radio:

“My office, my staff members, myself, [we’re] in constant discussion with the White House and the EPA. So we are coming to, hopefully, an agreement. I’ve made it very clear where I stand on this and in order to get my support moving forward, again, we have to have those reassurances that the EPA and all of those being confirmed in those positions are upholding the spirit and intent of the RFS. So we’re in constant communication and we hear from them multiple times a day. So I have laid out what I would like to see, which is reflective of our entire biofuels industry, and I think we are getting somewhere and I think our discussion yesterday face-to-face with administrator Pruitt was very helpful and I reminded him there are 88,500 family farms that are really dependent on the markets driven by the RFS. So not only are we seeking energy independence and greater efficiency within the renewable fuels industry, but we also have family occupations and lives that are dependent upon this.” (Senator Ernst on the Trent Rice Show on KASI radio, 10/18/2017)

 

Radio Iowa:

“‘I am engaged in negotiations with the administrator as well as the White House,’ Ernst told Radio Iowa by phone this afternoon. ‘…Hopefully we can receive those final assurances from them, hopefully in a more public manner, and then we can move ahead with getting nominees into the EPA.’ But Ernst said those confirmation votes in the senate will not happen until the EPA abandons its retraction of renewable fuels production mandates.” (Biofuels industry ‘perplexed’ by Trump Administration ‘regression’ on RFS, 10/18/2017)

 

E&E News:

“A key senator yesterday said she was ‘almost’ ready to declare victory in a standoff with the Trump administration that has snagged the nomination of Bill Wehrum to head U.S. EPA's air office. ‘I do think we're getting closer,’ Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told reporters at the Capitol yesterday, though stopping short of predicting a deal could arrive in time to allow a committee vote next week. ‘We want to know that Scott Pruitt as the head of the agency is going to uphold the spirit of the law’ on the renewable fuel standard, she added.” ('We're getting closer' to deal on air nominee — Sen. Ernst, 10/19/2017)

 

The Courier/Lee Enterprises:

“U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who holds a key position on a Senate committee overseeing nominees to the EPA, said Wednesday she wanted assurances the ‘spirit’ and letter of the RFS would be followed. ‘We just need very clear answers on where they are with the RFS, and if we don’t receive those assurances, then I’m not likely to move anybody ahead that could undo the RFS,’ Ernst said Wednesday.

Ernst is a member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, where Republicans hold an 11-10 edge. On Wednesday, the committee postponed consideration of Trump appointee William Wehrum to head the EPA’s office of air and radiation, which oversees the RFS. The postponement came after Ernst had expressed reservations about Wehrum.” (Trump orders EPA to back off RFS changes, report says, 10/18/2017)

 

Associated Press:

“GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said Wednesday she was not prepared to support the nomination of Bill Wehrum, Trump's choice to lead the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. If confirmed, Wehrum would oversee the Renewable Fuel Standard. Ernst questioned Wehrum about his position on the biofuels mandate in a hearing earlier this month. ‘Following his confirmation hearing, I expressed concern with the answers he gave, and told the committee I wasn't comfortable supporting him at that time due to his answers and recent actions by the EPA which had the potential to weaken or undermine the RFS,’ Ernst said.” (Trump EPA nominees on hold amid dispute over biofuel mandate, 10/18/2017)

The Hill:

“A key lawmaker in that fight is Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who sits on the EPW Committee. Because Republicans hold only a one-vote majority on the panel, they need everyone to support a nominee to bring it to the floor. But Ernst has been especially critical of Wehrum, and the EPA's approach to ethanol generally. She was one of several corn-state lawmakers to meet with Pruitt on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she said discussions over the RFS and the nomination are ongoing." (Overnight Energy: Senate aims to move EPA nominees next week | Controversial nominee already working at EPA | Bill would expedite some natural gas exports, 10/18/2017)

 

KWWL:

“So, when E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans that would hurt ethanol producers, while helping big oil companies, more than 30 senators contacted the president. Senator Joni Ernst sat down with Pruitt this week, and said, ‘Iowa is the largest producer of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation. Our farmers, ranchers and rural communities depend on maintaining a strong RFS.’” (Lawmakers concerned about E.P.A. proposal, 10/18/2017)

 

Watch the Agribusiness report HERE.

Watch Senator Ernst’s questioning of Mr. Wehrum here.

Senator Ernst has been a vocal opponent of any actions taken to lower RFS volumes, stressing her position through letters to EPA Administrator Pruitt and to President Trump. The Senator received commitments from Administrator Pruitt in their pre-confirmation meeting and during his confirmation hearing that he would follow the law and maintain the RFS. Earlier this week, Senator Ernst again met with Administrator Pruitt to reiterate the need to maintain a strong RFS.