Ernst discusses SRE deal as Trump meets with Big Oil senators

By Erin Voegele | September 19, 2019

President Trump is set to continue discussions Sept. 19 regarding the small refinery exemption (SRE) reallocation proposal by meeting with Senators representing oil interests. Meanwhile, Sen. Joni Ernst R-Iowa, said she needs to see the proposal in writing before she can announce her support.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., confirmed plans for a meeting between the Trump administration and representatives of oil states. “Refineries employ thousands of energy workers in Louisiana, and increasing their compliance costs will put jobs in jeopardy,” he tweeted Sept. 18. “Thanks to President [Trump] for agreeing to meet tomorrow and discuss this issue together.”

Ernst discussed that meeting and the SRE proposal during a Sept. 19 call with reporters.

During that call, Ernst confirmed she has been heavily involved in White House discussions regarding the SRE proposal, including an Oval Office meeting held last week. “While I can’t release the details of what was discussed [during that meeting]…I do believe we will come away with a solution for the crisis we see with our ethanol facilities.”

While Ernst confirmed she believes the plan will be agreed upon by members of industry and other leaders, she stressed “the devil is in the details” and said she needs the proposal on paper before applauding it or supporting it. “We have seen the EPA throw us under the bus before,” she said, echoing a comments made by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, earlier this week.

Ernst said she is hopeful the proposal will be out soon, noting it could be released this week. She also stressed she would continue to fight for farmers. “This is an issue that’s very important to me…I am going to be right there pushing to make sure the administration comes out with a significant and supportive plan for our farmers and the RFS,” she said.

“One think I reminded the president during our Oval Office call last week is that these oil refineries, they are owned by large billionaires, and these corn ethanol facilities are owned by various co-ops of family farmers,” she said. “So, you’re not hurting a big billionaire here—you are hurting our American famers with these exemptions going to these small refineries and not reallocating those gallons to the larger oil refineries.”

Regarding Trump’s meeting with oil interests today, Ernst stressed her main concern is with the EPA and how it interprets the SRE deal that has been discussed. She said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is the one who actually has to commit the plan to paper. “We are going to have to scrutinize whatever document he comes out with and make sure it’s what we agreed to in last week’s meeting,” Ernst said, noting the EPA needs to make sure the written proposal “reflects exactly what the president committed to us last week.”

“I think what we discussed in the Oval Office last week is a path forward that works not only for those small refineries, but also for our biofuels industry in the state of Iowa,” Ernst said. “I think it’s a viable solution and it works for everyone,” noting there shouldn’t be any pushback from senators representing Big Oil. “The only pushback they could have is ‘we don’t want renewable fuels,’ bottom line—that’s not acceptable,” she said. “The RFS is the law.”