Pruitt faces resistance from ethanol groups during midwest trips

Pruitt faces resistance from ethanol groups during midwest trips
© Greg Nash

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEnvironmentalists renew bid to overturn EPA policy barring scientists from advisory panels Six states sue EPA over pesticide tied to brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules MORE got an earful from corn growers and ethanol producers during his visit to Kansas on Tuesday.

Pruitt, a key figure in ongoing debate between the ethanol and natural gas industry over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), faced strong criticism during a roundtable at the East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC ethanol plant in Garnett, Kan., attendees said.

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Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley said farmers at the meeting worked to clearly voice to Pruitt their frustration with any Trump administration proposal that would lower the RFS and allow oil and gas companies to sell fuel with a lower percentage of ethanol.

"When you look at what EPA is doing, they are most definitely picking winners and losers and right now, ethanol is the loser,” McCauley said in a statement Wednesday.

“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."

McCauley added that farmers told Pruitt they were "mad as hell."

The EPA promoted the meetings in Kansas on social media, calling them informative and productive.

"Just finished up a candid and productive discussion with Kansas corn and grain sorghum farmers on #RFS," Pruitt tweeted from his official account on Tuesday. "I strongly believe the most effective way to make decisions is to hear directly form stakeholders. The Trump Administration is committed to standing up for the American farmer."

Corn famers in South Dakota are also holding a tractor rally in Sioux Falls on Wednesday to protest the EPA chief as he pays a visit to the state.

"The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, continues to bail out multi-billion-dollar oil refiners at the expense of South Dakota farmers. It’s time to get Administrator Pruitt on board with President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s agenda," South Dakota Corn wrote in its event description.

The Trump administration has been mulling changes to the RFS while facing pressure from oil and gas companies that say the current standards hamper their sales and unnecessarily benefit the ethanol industry.

The ethanol industry, meanwhile, has been lobbying Pruitt to approve the use of gas blends with 15 percent of ethanol during summer months — a percentage currently prohibited due to pollution concerns.

The consideration has led to tense discussions between members of Congress who represent states with strong ties to corn and those with ties to the gas industry.

No deal has yet been announced.