Pruitt Departure Allows for ‘Reset’ between Trump and Ethanol
by Mario Parker (Bloomberg) … The EPA also jettisoned a plan to incorporate an additional 1.5 billion gallons of biofuel requirements in last week’s proposal to make up for the potential waivers granted to small refineries. The agency said that it wouldn’t be taking public comments on the issue.
Pruitt made a “scorched Earth ruling on the way out the door,” Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said by phone Thursday. “That may mean there is some negotiating room” now that he’s left, Irwin said.
Prices for the credits tracking ethanol targets jumped as much as 31 percent to 27.5 cents apiece on Thursday after Trump tweeted that Pruitt resigned, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The gain signaled that traders see Pruitt’s departure as a door opening for the ethanol industry.
Without Pruitt, the EPA may “potentially make more sparing use of the” contested waivers, ClearView Energy Partners, said in a report Thursday.
The Fueling American Jobs Coalition, which supports the oil refiners, said in a statement Thursday that the RFS had nothing to do with Pruitt’s departure and reiterated that the EPA is following the law in issuing waivers. It also said that agriculture hasn’t been negatively impacted under the current administration.
For both fans and foes of the mandate, Wheeler will be seen as a fresh face. He doesn’t have the baggage Pruitt did from more than a year of struggling with ethanol backers and the oil-refining industry over the policy.
But fundamentally, he’s in the same difficult position as Pruitt: forced to administer a program that amounts to a zero-sum contest over gasoline market share.
Wheeler, a former energy and environmental lobbyist for Faegre Baker Daniels, is no stranger to the debate. He previously represented Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group that’s advocated for the EPA to allow year-round sales of higher blends of ethanol, according to a recusal statement from Wheeler. READ MORE
Ethanol advocates seek policy reset in Pruitt’s wake (E&E News Greenwire)
Letter: EPA hurt farmers (Quad City Times)
Farmers can’t afford repeat of EPA attack (Garden City Telegram)
Ethanol Blog: RINs Lower Friday Despite Pruitt Resignation (DTN The Progressive Farmer)
Exclusive: Top EPA Official Lays Out Post-Pruitt Policy Priorities (GreenTechMedia; includes AUDIO)
Iowa leaders ‘not sad’ to see Pruitt go (Wallace’s Farmer)
Wheeler May Offer Stakeholders a Chance to Reinforce Land-Based Solutions (Solutions from the Land)
MFU PRESIDENT SAYS PRUITT RESIGNATION WAS LONG OVERDUE (Brownfield Ag News)
Biofuel interests got some face time: (Politico’s Morning Energy)
New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt (The Hill)
New EPA chief should make room for E15 (Kearney Hub)
OUR OPINION: Will Pruitt’s departure mean more EPA support for RFS? (Sioux City Journal)
Excerpt from Reuters: Wheeler may pursue some of the similar goals, biofuels groups say, but they believe he will be more transparent and not “color outside the lines” as they claim Pruitt did.
It is unclear exactly what Wheeler’s plans are for the RFS, but during a Senate hearing in November, he said in response to questioning that he respected the program as the “law of the land.”
“No one can bank on the outcome, but a fair process is bankable with Andy Wheeler,” Brooke Coleman, head of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said on Friday.
Wheeler is more of a pragmatist and likely to pay more heed to the way things are typically done in Washington, said Michael McAdams, head of the Advanced Biofuels Association.
“The difference is … Pruitt had an absolute disdain for Washington,” McAdams said. “Pruitt went behind closed doors and took an authoritative position. That’s not how Andy will operate.” READ MORE
Excerpt from Politico: An additional wrinkle for the GOP may lie in the bloc of corn-state Republicans still smarting over Pruitt’s handling of the federal ethanol mandate. At least three of them — Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Rounds — said they were pushing for a meeting in the near future to discuss the matter with Wheeler.
A Senate Republican aide said they’d reached out to the agency but didn’t see anything happening “for a bit until things get settled over there.” In the meantime, Grassley said his colleagues should be patient.
“The Senate shouldn’t rush to confirm a replacement for Pruitt until we more fully understand the damage done to the RFS by Pruitt and what can be done to make it right,” Grassley said in a Tuesday call with reporters. “I think we ought to wait a while. Let things cool down. See the lay of the land before we fill that position.”
Ernst agreed: “I’m not looking for a permanent replacement right now,” she told POLITICO.
In general, acting officials can serve no more than 210 days from the date of a vacancy under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, according to a Congressional Research Service report posted online by the Federation of American Scientists. Pruitt’s resignation, effective July 6, would make the end of that period Feb. 1, 2019.
However, under a 2017 Supreme Court decision, Wheeler could not continue to serve as acting administrator if Trump nominated him as a permanent replacement for Pruitt. READ MORE
Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy: Wheeler held three meetings with pro-biofuels interests in his short time as deputy administrator, including the Fuels America Coalition, the Renewable Fuels Association, and Love’s Truck Stops (which blends biofuel and has an interest in the RFS program). By contrast, Pruitt met with the American Petroleum Institute, no fan of the program, though it also opposed most of Pruitt’s moves to suppress biofuel compliance costs. Pruitt’s meetings and calls with senators on the issue included major RFS players like Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and Texas’ Ted Cruz. READ MORE