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EPA nominee blocked due to ‘gap year’ waiver issue

Photo courtesy of The Office of Senator Joni Ernst's

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nominee for Deputy Administrator will not appear before the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) voiced her opposition for the nominee, as ethanol states seek clarity with regards to ‘gap year’ filings.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) told Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Environmental Public Works Committee, she cannot support Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator nominee Doug Benevento until Agency officials announce their plans for 52 ‘gap year’ waiver petitions. 

“Our farmers need consistency. They need to understand what’s going on and right now, we do not have that plan,” Senator Ernst said. “Our hardworking ethanol and biodiesel producers are sick of being yanked around by Andrew Wheeler and the EPA. They, again, need certainty. Until we get that, no EPA nominee is going to get my okay.” 

Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley recently spoke with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Ernst suggested Administrator Wheeler “throw” all ‘gap year’ waivers “in the trash.” Such a move would uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard and start to apply the 10th Circuit decision nationally.

“In my opinion, they need to go in the trash,” Senator Ernst said. “I don’t understand how oil refineries now could come forward years later and say, ‘By the way, I was having a hardship five, six, seven, eight, (or) nine years ago and need to be granted a waiver for that past year.’ That is not the spirit of our law.” 

Senator Ernst believes scrapping the ‘gap year’ waivers is “the right thing to do,” especially as the ethanol industry faces challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. However, there’s more work to be done in Washington D.C., and Administrator Wheeler needs to “step it up.”

“One area we are looking at is the great win we had with E15 and reid vapor pressure,” Senator Ernst said. “We now see E15 year-round, and that’s a great thing for the RFS, our ethanol producers, and corn growers. What we see is a slow walk with going in and certifying the tanks and pumps. All of that has to be done by the EPA and it’s taking forever for them to get that done.”

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