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Ethanol, Disaster Aid On Senator's Agenda

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley pictured during the opening of the DuPont cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada in 2015. The plant has since been sold and is no longer producing ethanol.

Now that Congress has returned to Capitol Hill, Iowa’s senior senator is resuming two ongoing policy efforts.

Renewable fuels

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says he’s submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency in support of the plan to make the sale of E-15 legal throughout the year. E-15 contains more ethanol than the widely-available E-10 blend, but federal rules have restricted the sale of E-15 at certain times of the year.

Meanwhile, the senator continues to criticize the high number of waivers the EPA has granted to some oil refineries in recent years. The refiners are obligated to blend ethanol into fuel unless that presents a hardship, an exemption intended for small refineries.

“The word hardship is in the law, you gotta be hardship cases,” Grassley said, “and when a lot of these companies that are making a billion dollars a year get an exemption, it just doesn’t add up to hardship.”

Grassley and some other biofuels advocates have complained that too many waivers have been granted in the past few years. But Grassley said he’s hopeful new leadership at the EPA will lead to fewer exemptions.

Disaster aid

The Senate is expected to resume discussion of a major disaster aid bill that was stalled before the Easter recess in part over disagreements about how much more assistance Puerto Rico would get for hurricane recovery. Grassley says that shouldn’t hold up the measure, which also will help Nebraska and Iowa residents recovering from March flooding.

“There’s no reason, political or process or substantive, to hold this up,” he said. “Nobody is going to be denied what the federal government has promised as the insurer of last resort for the past several decades.”

Grassley accused Democrats of playing politics with the relief bill in an effort to woo voters of Puerto Rican origin living in other U.S. jurisdictions.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames