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 ErnstErnst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad 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 WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending MORE and the EPA. Our producers need certainty; until we get that, no EPA nominee is getting my vote.”

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In response, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana 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 John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE earlier this year nominated Benevento, who has been serving as the EPA’s associate deputy administrator, to be deputy administrator.

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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.

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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 CapitoSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell makes strong call for masks, saying there should be no stigma MORE (R-W.Va.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMore Republicans should support crisis aid for the Postal Service GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report 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.