EPA Administrator Pruitt Drilled Over Work, Ethics, RFS

Pruitt - E&C Committee Hearing - April 26, 2018

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was on Capitol Hill Thursday defending not only the administration’s work but his ethics.

Pruitt testified in front of two House Subcommittees. Those hearings addressed the EPA budget and what critics say is questionable behavior by Pruitt.

Pruitt justifying his work at the EPA saying he’s ending more than two dozen regulations and continuing to stop “Washington’s Power Grab” of overreach and unnecessary regulation.

Pruitt was also questioned by lawmakers about the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

During the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing, Rep. David McKinley (R- West Virginia) asked about the fate of granting waivers to smaller refineries who can’t comply with the RFS standards. It’s a controversial topic some Midwestern lawmakers and farm groups want changed.

The EPA granted renewable fuel blending waivers for small refineries, which means they’re not penalized for failing to comply with the standards for blending the appropriate amount of ethanol into gasoline. Not every struggling refinery has a waiver.

“Is there something that we can work together or help out these small refineries so they can compete?” said McKinley. “They can’t handle the renewable identification number [RINs]. There’s not a market for them. Is there something we can be doing to help out these [smaller] refineries?”

“We have received I think 24 applications [from refineries] in 2017 and 30 in 2018,” said Pruitt. “I would say to you the volatility of the RIN trading platform is creating traceability across the whole RFS discussion. It’s really [in] the best interest to get more clarity and confidence and how this RIN trading platform and relief needs to occur. It’s going to benefit the ethanol industry, the ag industry and I think those that are suffering with the RIN obligations.”

Both ethanol and oil proponents stayed busy in Washington Thursday outside of the hearing walls as well.

Members of the House Biofuel Caucus, a group compiled with lawmakers who represent states where farmers grow corn for ethanol and other crops for biofuels, sending a letter to Pruitt Thursday while he was in hearings. The letter said to stop what they call “secretive” RFS waivers, the same issue Pruitt was questioned about during his hearings. The caucus demands EPA to stop all waiver activity and to provide lawmakers with a full list of details on existing waivers.

Over a dozen senators from Midwestern states urged Pruitt last week to not issue financial “hardship waivers.”

While Pruitt testified, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) held a press conference and rally outside of the White House. They were joined with workers from oil refineries Monroe Energy, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and PBF Energy. They all voiced their efforts to stop what they call “a broken regulatory [RFS] system.”

“There’s a solution that’s a win-win solution,” said Cruz. “There is a solution that the President has heard, has listened to, has expressed support for. The solution is capping the regulatory cost on RINs, so that the men and women behind me can keep their jobs.”