SPONSORED:

Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will not take up Douglas Benevento’s nomination for the No. 2 position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill to shorten early voting period, end Election Day early in Iowa heads to governor's desk We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (R-Iowa) announced her opposition. 

Ernst said in a statement on Friday that she would oppose the nomination, citing issues that ethanol and biodiesel producers have with the agency over blending requirement waivers for oil refiners. 

“Until EPA tells us exactly what they plan to do with the ‘gap year’ waivers, Mr. Benevento does not have my vote,” Ernst said. “Iowa’s hardworking ethanol and biodiesel producers are sick of being yanked around by Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA sued by environmental groups over Trump-era smog rule Environmental groups sue over federal permit for Virgin Islands refinery OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE and the EPA. Our producers need certainty; until we get that, no EPA nominee is getting my vote.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In response, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoBiden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Senate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary MORE (R-Wyo.), who chairs the panel, said that the committee will not hold a vote on the nomination. 

“In light of Senator Ernst’s announcement, a path forward for Mr. Benevento's nomination to be deputy administrator of the EPA no longer exists,” Barrasso told The Hill in a statement. “He is well qualified for the position but does not have the votes.”

“While I strongly disagree with Senator Ernst on the Renewable Fuel Standard, her long-standing position on the side of Iowa corn farmers won't be overcome in this case. The committee will not be taking up this nomination," he added.

Spokespeople for the EPA and the White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE earlier this year nominated Benevento, who has been serving as the EPA’s associate deputy administrator, to be deputy administrator.

ADVERTISEMENT

Prior to joining the Trump administration in 2017, Benevento worked for gas and electric utility Xcel Energy and has also been a registered lobbyist for natural gas producer Colorado Interstate Gas.

During a confirmation hearing in March, Ernst pressed the nominee over exemptions to ethanol blending requirements for small oil refiners.

There has been a chasm among Senate Republicans who live in corn-producing states and those who live in oil-producing states over Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) and waivers for blending requirements.

The RFS establishes a requirement that a certain amount of biofuels be blended into petroleum-based fuels like gasoline. Supporters of the rule say it is better for the environment and supports the biofuel industry, while opponents say it can create a big burden for small oil refiners that are subject to it.

The EPA has issued waivers for some small refiners who said they were impacted by the requirement, however, a court in January overturned three agency-issued waivers, and the EPA did not appeal the decision.

ADVERTISEMENT

After deciding not to appeal, the agency has considered lifting its ethanol fuel requirement amid pandemic-related struggles for the oil industry.

And it was recently reported that the EPA is weighing more than 50 waiver requests. 

Trump considers both the oil industry and farmers to be parts of his base, making the issue politically complex.

Ernst’s announcement is not the first time in recent weeks that Republicans have broken rank to oppose a Trump nominee.

Earlier this month, Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden's unity effort falters Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed MORE (R-W.Va.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Maine) announced that they opposed the president’s pick to lead the a consumer safety agency, citing her record on a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS.

Moore Capito’s vote against that nominee, Nancy Beck, in committee would lead to a tie vote, resulting in Beck failing to get the panel’s approval.

Ernst is up for reelection this year and nonpartisan forecaster the Cook Political Report has rated her race as leaning Republican.