Energy

Joni Ernst Says ‘We Can Do Better’ Than Scott Pruitt

ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa didn’t pull any punches when talking about Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Thursday interview, highlighting his deep unpopularity with the ethanol industry.

“We can do better” than Pruitt, Ernst said during a Thursday interview with the Washington Examiner. Ernst is taking issue with Pruitt’s actions on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), claiming he has given mixed messages to farmers and others on the issue. However, she stopped short of calling for Pruitt’s resignation, saying such a decision is up to President Donald Trump.

This is not the first time Ernst has put the EPA administrator on blast.

She previously said “Pruitt is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C.,” an indirect reference to the number of scandals that have plagued the EPA leader. Ernst also stated that she is “hopeful that the president will just recognize that Mr. Pruitt is breaking our president’s promises to farmers.”

The growing hostility from Ernst and other lawmakers from corn-heavy regions centers around the RFS, a law that mandates oil refineries include a certain amount of ethanol into their fuel. Refineries oppose the mandate, as it drives up prices for the product. Farmers in Iowa, however, want to keep the mandate in place, as it boosts demand for their corn. (RELATED: ‘Conservative’ Attack Ads Against Pruitt Funded By Ethanol-Linked Group)

Pruitt has incensed the ethanol lobby by increasing the number of “hardship” waivers given to oil refineries, exempting them from the mandate. The EPA leader was to propose modifications in early June that would have scaled back the RFS altogether. Those plans, however, were scrapped after attracting major ire from Ernst and Chuck Grassley — the other Republican senator from Iowa — and many farmers.

Pruitt — already despised by Democrats for his work in rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations — has fallen out of favor with Republicans in corn country.

American Future Fund, a self-identified conservative group, released an attack ad against Pruitt earlier in June, criticizing him for various scandals and calling for his removal. The group, however, was found to have deep ties to ethanol interests.

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