With two key agriculture-related decisions recently put in the books, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt last week said he’s ready to tackle regulations on E15 and a revised Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

In doing so, Pruitt said he’ll listen closely to the needs of farmers and ranchers.

“For anyone to look at you as adversaries is wrongheaded,” he said at a Dec. 1 farmer town hall hosted by Story County Farm Bureau member Bill Couser. “We need to be partners going forward and use the resources you guys provide us.”

Pruitt said the United States possesses a wealth of natural resources that should be used in an environmentally friendly way to benefit the country’s citizens, rather than an exclusionary approach advocated by environmental activists.

Couser and other ag officials applauded recent EPA decisions setting Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations at originally proposed levels and keeping the reporting obligation for renewable fuel usage with refiners rather than retailers.

He said the EPA administrator also provided assurances to keep open lines of communication on future decisions affecting farmers.

“All of our questions were answered,” said Couser, who hosted Pruitt and top Iowa officials for a private luncheon at his farm before the town hall. “I’m really excited (about working with the administration).”

Providing certainty

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill said the EPA’s decisions on the Renewable Fuel Standard will help provide much-needed certainty to Iowa’s biofuel industry following months of turmoil.

“That announcement of 15 billion gallons of ethanol is helpful, because it brings some certainty to the market,” he said.

Pruitt said getting the RFS decision out on time was a priority for him, and timeliness will continue to be a consideration as he tackles other issues.

“We really have instituted a commitment to results,” he said. “Sometimes people might not like a decision we make, but it’s better to have clarity than put it on a shelf.”

Reworking WOTUS

Regarding WOTUS, Pruitt said his goal is to have a new rule ready by the middle of next year.

“That is definitely going to come in 2018, and it’s going to be closely aligned with the intent of Congress,” he said. “It’s important to provide a definition of what a Water of the United States is. Just as importantly, we have to provide a definition of what it isn’t.”

For example, he said, prairie potholes and ephemeral gullies that are dry most of the time should not be considered a Water of the U.S., he said.

Pruitt said the EPA is also looking at regulatory issues that prevent E15 from being used year-round in non-flex fuel vehicles.

Under current rules dealing with Reid Vapor Pressure, only flex-fuel vehicles can legally use E15 during the summer months.

“It doesn’t make any sense to be able to sell a fuel part of the year and not the entire year,” he said. He said the EPA is looking at whether it has the legal authority to change the regulation on its own or whether it needs to work with Congress on a legislative fix.