GOP Threatens To Nuke Trump’s EPA Nominees Over Biofuels Deal

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Republican lawmakers are threatening to scuttle President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees after reports suggested the agency will reduce biofuels that are mixed in with gasoline.

“Plenty of senators” are considering opposing Trump EPA picks, unless the agency backs off a plan to dial down the renewable fuel standard, Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday. Pruitt is floating the idea of dramatically reducing the standard, Politico reported prior to Grassley’s comments.

“Hold up EPA nominees. I think there’s plenty of senators would do that,” Grassley told reporters when asked how he planned to hold Pruitt and Trump to the fire. The Iowa Republican also said that he would be willing to go all out to maintain the standard.

“I’ll oppose any effort to reduce blending levels or undermine the integrity of the RFS,” Grassley said in a statement late Tuesday. “I’m watching this issue closely and plan to hold the administration accountable.”

Grassley is willing to hold up the nomination of Michael Dourson, who was picked to run the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Bill Wehrum, a former EPA official that Trump tabbed to run the agency’s air office.

“I’m not comfortable with him right now,” Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Tuesday about her stance on Wehrum’s nomination.

Trump, like most of his Republican opponents, campaigned during the presidential election on maintaining the standard as a sop to Iowa farmers dependent on the high-priced corn-based fuel. But recent reports suggest that Pruitt is determined to slash RIN prices.

Pruitt is scouring for ways to drive down RIN prices to help the fossil fuel industry, according to oil industry sources who have spoken with the EPA. “The reason he wants to do that, he’s going to screw them on point of obligation. He’s willing to [push] any crazy idea that accomplishes that goal in the short term.”

The agency wants to allow exports of ethanol to count toward the total biofuel volume obligations for the year, a policy that would likely drive down prices, Reuters reported.

Republicans hold an 11-10 majority over Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which would allow only one GOP defection to defeat Wehrum and Dourson’s nominations. Democrats are opposed to both nominations because of their ties to private industry.

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