Sen. Joni Ernst

(Washington) -- Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is expressing frustration over a lack of action from the Environmental Protection Agency on issues related to the biofuel industry.

During a U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing earlier this week, Ernst grilled EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler regarding his awareness of COVID-19's impact on ethanol producers, and how he intends to handle requests for Renewable Fuel Standard waivers. In a conference call with reporters, the Red Oak Republican said she wasn't pleased with Wheeler's answers.

"I learned very little that is new," said Ernst. "It just seems like the EPA is continuing to drag its feet, so we will continue to be pushing on these issues."

Among other things, Ernst pressed Wheeler on his previous commitments to improving biofuel infrastructure, as well as eliminating E-15 warning labels. She says Wheeler's answers were evasive.

"He said that they found some complications," she said, "and will have to work through those. And, when I asked him for a timeframe on when that would be done, again, he couldn't give a director answer on when they would have it completed. So, it just tells me we have more we have to do in that area, pushing administrator Wheeler."

Ernst says she'll continue pushing Wheeler and the agency to support the biofuels industry.

"I just reminded him, certainly, that they need to uphold the RFS, as they're working through various refinery exemptions--whatever it might happen to be," said Ernst, "to make sure they are following precedent that has been set in past years, and following the letter of the law as it was written in a bipartisan way by Democrats and Republicans."

The senator says she'll also pressure President Trump to make sure any sort of relief provided to oil refineries be equally applied to the RFS.

"It is really important that they understand our ethanol products are part of those petroleum products that are going into those vehicles," she said, "and making sure that if they're applying that standard to refineries on the petroleum side, that they're doing it for our biofuels, as well."

Even with small victories on ethanol-related issues, Ernst says biofuels supporters must keep their vigilance, because of the pressures exerted on the EPA from oil state members of Congress.

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