|NEWS FROM THE HILL – EPA’s Scott Pruitt in the Hot Seat & Ethanol Bargaining
The Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (that’s the EPA, yet another acronym you should commit to memory) testified before Congress this week and Democrats quickly went into attack mode. Specifically, they questioned Scott Pruitt’s many regulatory rollbacks since he took the position and suggested what they see as potentially ulterior motives at the agency. Now, that’s not a partisan or political statement – that’s paraphrasing directly from the mouth of top Democrat Ed Markey (D-Mass) who had this to say to reporters prior to the hearing:
“Our goal will be to put him on the spot, to have him defend the egregious policies which he has been implementing and to make it more clear to the American people that this is the most anti-environment administration in the history of our country,”.
Other questions were posed to the Administrator unrelated to the environment, specifically regarding his professional activities, such his international travel, including a four-day trip to Morocco, and his $25,000 secure phone booth. Republicans – particularly those from corn states – asked the administrator for his plans for the Renewable Fuel Standard….yep, that’s ethanol.
A big talking point Pruitt focused on in his comments about ethanol? The recent bankruptcy of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest oil refiner on the East Coast. The company blamed the cost of complying with the Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS (PSSST – that’s the law requiring refiners to blend corn-based ethanol and into their gasoline and diesel). Pruitt took the opportunity to call for ethanol reform…YES PLEASE!
That’s a nice segue into comments from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn made this week…he says that he continues to engage in “productive” conversations with all parties (that incudes yours truly!) interested in reaching a compromise on biofuels, but that finding an agreement is like “threading a needle” and “challenging to be sure.” Yeah – no sh*t!
P.S. for those that don’t know, we watch the EPA and who leads it closely….why should we care you ask? The EPA has been the catalyst for many issues that have negatively affected riders – from ethanol to emissions to many more, we keep a very close eye on this agency.
EXECUTIVE & REGULATORY UPDATES – State of the Union & How to Pay For Infrastructure
D.C. was a buzz on Tuesday when President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union or SOTU (there’s another acronym for you). Your MRF was paying particularly close attention to whether infrastructure will be a centerpiece of the speech. And it was…. Trump outdid himself, saying he wants $1.5 trillion for infrastructure — last year he said he wanted $1 trillion. Both Republicans and Democrats were left to wonder how he would pay for it. We talked last week about a gas tax or tolls to help supplement the cost. I think those options may BOTH be on the table. (And thanks to everyone that responded to me when I asked for their opinion…a preference on gas tax won over tolls from the 20 or so responses I received).
A few other folks put their two-cents in as well…some Republicans, including Reps. Don Young of Alaska and Pennsylvanians Charlie Dent and Lou Barletta, are on record supporting a gas tax increase, and on Tuesday were tentatively joined by an unlikely ally in the form of Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa who is a longtime opponent of a gas tax hike. He said that he “won’t be out there pushing for” the idea, but that he can’t say he wouldn’t vote for it, because during legislative negotiations “everything has to be on the table.”
On a personal note, your MRF was kickin’ around the Capitol during the SOTU – specifically both myself and Tiffany joined Harley-Davidson’s Washington DC representative at a local establishment; the Capitol Hill Club. We weren’t the only ones there…I ran into this nice gentleman had nothing but nice things to say about ABATE of Illinois. (Pssssst: that’s Congressman Rodney David with me who sits on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee