Thursday, June 14, 2018

EPA chief Scott Pruitt faces frosty reception from corn farmers and ethanol producers in Kansas, South Dakota

Kansas corn farmers and ethanol producers confronted Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt Tuesday during his tour of the Agency East Kansas Agri Energy LLC ethanol plant in Garnett, telling him they were "mad as hell" about EPA efforts they believe will undermine the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, help Big Oil, and hurt rural America, AgDaily reports.

Protesters at a South Dakota rally during Pruitt's visit
(Sioux Falls Argus Leader photo by Briana Sanchez)
Pruitt told the standing room-only crowd that EPA is not supposed to pick winners and losers, but Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley said Pruitt is "most definitely picking winners and losers right now . . . Our concern was that Administrator Pruitt thought he could come to Kansas, take a few photos with smiling farmers and tell the president that corn farmers are okay with his actions. That would be a gross misinterpretation of what happened here today. I told him that EPA’s attacks on ethanol don’t just hurt plants like EKAE, they hurt farmers, rural communities, and American consumers who benefit from ethanol with lower prices and cleaner air."

Much of the frustration stems from Pruitt's decision to grant an unusually large number of biofuel waivers to oil refineries. The waivers are meant to help struggling small refineries that would face economic hardship if they mixed the required amount of biofuels in their oil. But ethanol interests fear that the increased number of waivers granted is a backdoor effort to help Big Oil after the recent RFS dust-up. The Trump administration attempted to appease oil-producing states by proposing a rollback of the RFS last fall, but relented after strong pushback from corn states.

Pruitt thanked the speakers despite their "harsh criticism" and said "It's important for me to hear how passionate and concerned you are about the issues," Ag Daily reports.

Pruitt also received a frosty reception in Sioux Falls, S.D., yesterday. About 200 corn farmers and ethanol producers held a rally in a nearby park as Pruitt toured Schindler Family Farms and spoke with sorghum farmers about creating a fuel credit program like the one for corn, Patrick Anderson reports for the Argus Leader. Area farmer Troy Knecht led the rally, telling Pruitt to uphold the RFS and President Trump's vow to allow E-15 gasoline blends all year-round.

Area farmer David Fremark, who was at Pruitt's discussion, told Anderson: "I don't think he’s agriculture's friend . . . He talked a good game, but the things that he's doing—he appeared not to grasp the magnitude of the things he’s doing."

"Biofuels have taken a hit because of Pruitt's actions," Anderson reports. "The changes mean less ethanol production and demand for corn. The reduction is equal to 1.63 billion gallons of ethanol, worth an estimated $2.45 billion, plus $1.96 billion in corn, according to the Renewable Fuel Association."

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