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Ernst questions Trump’s appointee for EPA Administrator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today questioned President-elect Trump’s nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, at his confirmation hearing. Senator Ernst began her questioning of Mr. Pruitt by stressing the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and seeking his commitment to upholding the RFS in accordance with congressional intent. Ernst also recalled the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report that found the EPA’s social media campaign to promote its flawed expansion of the Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS) broke the law and called on Mr. Pruitt to improve the relationships EPA has with hardworking folks across the country.

Senator Ernst: As you know, Iowa is home to 43 ethanol refineries. We are the largest producer of ethanol west or east of the Missouri River. President-elect Trump reiterated his support for biofuels while he was campaigning across Iowa and all across the Midwest, and those areas of the country overwhelmingly supported his candidacy and led to his victory. And thank you for stating, once again, that you would honor his commitment to biofuels by carrying out the RFS as intended by Congress. Policy certainty is key for economic growth, and this is something we discussed in my office. Unfortunately, as a result of uncertainty surrounding the EPA’s renewable fuel volume targets in 2014, 2015, and 2016, second generation biofuel investment decreased and proposed projects moved overseas. Fortunately, the EPA has recently changed its course and released updated volume targets for the RFS that meet the levels prescribed by Congress. If confirmed as Administrator, what will you do to continue to provide certainty so that investment can continue to happen right here at home in the United States?

Mr. Pruitt: You know Senator, as you indicated in our meeting, the importance of the infrastructure of the investment that has occurred in reliance upon the law that was passed in 2005 and updated in 2007, and as I indicated earlier to Senator Fischer’s question, the latitude discretion that has been given to the EPA Administrator with respect to waiving those statutory targets should be judiciously used. It shouldn’t be automatic, it should be something that the EPA Administrator seeks to comply to and adhere to because of the will of this body. So I think those waivers obviously are in order but with respect to market conditions, we have less consumption today, more fuel efficient vehicles; market conditions have changed since 2005. But despite that, the EPA Administrator should not use that to undermine or to somehow put into question the commitments made by this body in the Renewable Fuels Standard statute.

Senator Ernst: Thank for you for your commitment to the RFS and the intention of Congress.

The Iowa Senator also emphasized the need to repair the distrust the EPA has created with many Iowans:

Senator Ernst: When I’m home in Iowa I host town halls all across the state and just want to hear what’s going on in their communities, and what I hear, without fail, at these town halls is that folks are frustrated with the EPA and the ‘gotcha’ mentality that has stemmed from the agency. My constituents tell me the EPA is out to get them rather than work with them and there is a huge lack of trust between many of my constituents and the EPA, and if we take a look specifically at the WOTUS rule, Iowans truly feel that the EPA ignored their comments and concerns, threw them under the rug and then just moved forward. We know now, the EPA relied on gimmicky mass emails and social media events to prop up their message and then used those tactics to insinuate that anyone who had reasonable concerns about the WOTUS rule are somehow in favor of dirty water, which is absolutely ridiculous, and this type of culture that was created under the Obama Administration has no place here. So Mr. Pruitt, what do you plan to do in your first days as the administrator to improve the relationships EPA has with hardworking folks across the country?

Mr. Pruitt: Well, Senator, as I indicated in my opening statement, this paradigm that we live within today that if you’re pro-energy, you’re anti-environment, if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-energy is something that I think is just a false narrative. We can do better than that. In fact, this country has shown for decades that we can grow our economy and be a good steward of our air, land, and water and we need to get back to that. Cooperative federalism is at the heart of many of the environmental statutes that have been passed by this body, and the reason for that is, it’s the states many times that have the resources, the expertise, and understanding what the unique challenges are for the environment and improving our water and our air – it’s not that they don’t care about it. Senator Whitehouse indicated a devolution of authority to the states would create a problem, that’s not what I’m advocating and I think we hear in the marketplace we need a partnership, a true partnership, between the EPA performing its role, along with states in performing theirs. If we have that partnership as opposed to punishment, as opposed to uncertainty and duress that we currently see in the marketplace, I think we’ll have better air, better water quality, as a result.

Senator Ernst also recently met with Mr. Pruitt, where she outlined and discussed her priorities with the nominee.

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