Outrage over federal agencies’ biofuel mandates

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WASHINGTON — Midwest lawmakers, corn farmers and biofuel producers are outraged and angered following what they’re calling a “bait-and-switch” policy change by federal agencies.

“This administration at every turn makes decisions that hurt farmers,” Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said. “I see this as another win for big oil.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed course on a mandate issued only 11 days ago to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline each year. Now, the EPA says it will base the ethanol mandate on a three-year average of gallons produced, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“All along, I’ve said what farmers and biofuels producers want is what was promised by Congress. And that’s adhering to the biofuels blending targets in law. Ultimately, this will come down to trust and implementation at EPA. The ethanol and biodiesel industries have a lot of cause to distrust EPA and that is understandable. But President (Donald) Trump brokered this deal and any attempt to undermine it from EPA would represent a betrayal of the president. I expect EPA would not do that after all the work that’s gone into this issue,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement.

At a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky assured lawmakers the original goal will be met.

“The EPA very much plans to administer to make sure that we achieve that 15 billion gallon target,” he said.

Ethanol advocates say the mandated amounts are too low and undercut demand.

“We’re incredibly frustrated and very disappointed,” said Emily Skor of advocacy group Energy.

On the other side of things, the oil industry representatives say they are too high.

“This is bad news, we’re really upset by this actually,” said Derrick Morgan of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association. “This move doesn’t really help (manufacturers) and it hurts our sector a lot and will ultimately hurt drivers.”

How the administration plans to enforce any mandate remains unclear.

The plan announced Tuesday will receive public comment before it is finalized. A hearing on the matter will be held in Michigan later this month.

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