Republican senator threatens to call on Pruitt to resign

Republican senator threatens to call on Pruitt to resign
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa) is threatening to push for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE’s resignation over ethanol policy.

Grassley made the threat Tuesday as part of a warning to Pruitt against the EPA’s reported “hardship” waivers, which are given to fuel refineries to exempt them from the federal ethanol mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Well, they better, or I’m going to be calling for Pruitt to resign, because I’m done playing around with this” he said of his request that EPA stop issuing the waivers to individual small refineries owned by large companies.

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Grassley argued that waivers violate promises by Pruitt and President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE to keep the annual federal ethanol mandate at the level Congress called for in 2007, which is currently 15 billion gallons.

His state is dominant nationally in corn production, and the ethanol mandate has significantly ramped up demand for corn to create the biofuel. He fears the waivers will chip away at the mandate and hurt Iowa. 

“Trump was elected with an agenda, Pruitt was not elected, and it's Pruitt’s job to carry out the Trump agenda,” he said in a call.

Grassley reiterated the threat later Tuesday in a tweet.

“I’ve supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses,” Grassley wrote.

More than 170 Democratic lawmakers have called on Pruitt to resign over recent scandals regarding his ethics and spending decisions, including renting a condo for just $50 per night from a lobbyist and spending more than $3 million on round-the-clock security.

A handful of House Republicans have also asked Pruitt to step down. Grassley would be the first Senate Republican to do so, although Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell MORE (R-Maine) has said Pruitt “is the wrong person to head the EPA.”

Reuters and other news outlets have reported in recent weeks that the EPA has given waivers to refinery facilities owned by big companies such as Andeavor and CVR.

The waivers are intended for small refiners. Ethanol supporters say that means big companies should not get them, but refinery supporters say small facilities owned by big companies are eligible.

“The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to give relief to any small refinery that suffers disproportionate economic hardship from the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLatest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Grassley and oil-state GOP senators have been negotiating among each other and with Trump in recent months to try to get changes to the way the EPA enforces the ethanol mandate, with the goal of saving refinery jobs without hurting the ethanol industry.

Trump committed last week to pursuing a policy to allow 15 percent ethanol blends — known as E15 — to be sold year-round, removing rules that restrict its sale in the summer.

Grassley strongly supports that policy, but warned that giving too many waivers would erase its gains.

“It could undo the benefits of E15 12 months out of the year,” Grassley said in the Tuesday call.