Pruitt hit with tough ethanol questions from eastern Kansas farm growers

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with Kansas corn and ethanol leaders on Tuesday who bent his ears about what the agency’s doing to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

They complained he’s only undermining the RFS, hurting rural America and helping Big Oil. Their complaints were made as Pruitt left Washington, D.C. to visit the East Kansas Agri Energy LLC ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas.

According to the farm newsletter, the Fence Post, growers told Pruitt they were “mad as hell” about the efforts of the EPA to undermine the RFS law. But Pruitt responded by saying the EPA is not supposed to pick winners and losers.

Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley said farm and ethanol groups at the meeting wanted to set the tone and help Administrator Pruitt understand the frustration being felt in rural America.

“When you look at what EPA is doing, they are most definitely picking winners and losers and right now, ethanol is the loser,” McCauley said. “Our concern was that Administrator Pruitt thought he could come to Kansas, take a few photos with smiling farmers and tell the president that corn farmers are okay with his actions. That would be a gross misinterpretation of what happened here today. I told him that EPA’s attacks on ethanol don’t just hurt plants like EKAE, they hurt farmers, rural communities and American consumers who benefit from ethanol with lower prices and cleaner air.”

It was reported that at times, the meeting was tense as corn growers complained the EPA has destroyed demand for ethanol. Pruitt explained he had to grant small refinery exemptions because of a court ruling that allows refiners to only show financial hardship.

“We asked him what constituted financial hardship and I can’t say we got an answer,” McCauley said. “He told us the standards had changed and that RINs were more volatile. But there is no transparency in these decisions.”

Equally demanding of Pruitt was East Kansas Agri-Energy President and CEO Bill Pracht who complained about the destruction of the price of Renewable Identification Numbers attached to each gallon of ethanol produced.

“RIN prices have decreased over 50% since the beginning of EPA’s discussions regarding adding RINs to export gallons, capping RINs, and also the increase in small refiner’s waivers,” Pracht said.

“In fact, the RIN market is currently so depressed and volatile, that East Kansas Agri-Energy will be shutting down our brand new, state-of-the-art renewable diesel plant on June 18,” Pracht announced during the meeting. Pracht indicated the Garnett plant will remain idle until the renewable diesel RIN market regains some measure of stability.