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Grassley pledges support for Newton’s biofuel industry

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA,  shakes hands with Newton Mayor Mike Hansen following a press 
conference to protest the EPA’s lowering of renewable fuel quotas at REG in Newton on Tuesday.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA, shakes hands with Newton Mayor Mike Hansen following a press conference to protest the EPA’s lowering of renewable fuel quotas at REG in Newton on Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley was in Newton Tuesday to show support for biodiesel production in Iowa. An EPA proposal to roll back minimum volumes for biomass based diesel has producers in Iowa concerned, and Grassley pledged his support, promising to hold President Donald Trump to his campaign promise to support renewable energy in Iowa.

“A platform isn’t just something to run on, it’s something to stand on,” Grassley told the crowd at REG, Newton’s biomass-based diesel plant.

Promising to continue his fight for biodiesel and renewable energy, the Republican senator said he’s seen the value of Iowa’s biodiesel industry, and he plans to keep fighting for it on the Senate floor. Lowering the minimum volume standard for 2018, which was established more than a year ago, along with rolling back the 2019 numbers will hurt Iowa’s economy, Grassley said.

“This proposal is harmful to Iowa soybean producers,” Grassley said.

Biofuels are big business in Iowa, and REG’s impact on Newton has been significant. Seventy million gallons of biodiesel produced in Iowa plants is delivered to 284 locations nationwide. In 2016, REG purchased 770 million pounds of feedstock from Iowa vendors, which it claims added $216 million to the state’s economy.

Sen. Chaz Allen, D-Newton, said he’s concerned about the impact the EPA’s proposal would have in Newton. Allen has reached across the aisle to work with Grassley on the issue because he believes that protecting and promoting the state’s renewable energy industry is a “bipartisan effort.”

“It’s important for this renewable energy center here,” Allen said. “Sen. Grassley has been a big part of helping us with Maytag, not only renewable energy, but also to transition to a renewable energy industry.”  

Grassley said he’s been in constant contact with the president recently to remind him of his campaign promises and to let him know that he’s disappointed with the EPA’s proposed cuts. While the president has repeatedly promised to “protect” ethanol, many in Trump’s cabinet have ties to the oil industry, which views the Renewable Fuel Standard as costly and burdensome. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who hails from the oil-rich state of Oklahoma is one of many tied to the oil industry. Grassley said he’s concerned with Pruitt’s proposal, and he’s made it clear to the president that Iowans won’t accept cuts in biodiesel.  

“He’s [Pruitt] not following the president’s lead, we need to get him back on track” Grassley said. “It’s something we need to be concerned about, that’s why I wrote to the president, spoke on the Senate floor and why I called the president.”

There is strong support in the Senate for biofuels, according to Grassley and he said he’s been working diligently to make sure fellow senators are aware of the benefits they provide. Grassley, along with several other senators, plans to meet with Pruitt next week. Grassley demurred when asked if he’d consider asking the president to fire Pruitt if changes weren’t made to the proposal, insisting the goal is to “get Pruitt off his course.”

“He ought to be cognizant of what he’s doing to the industry and what he’s doing to the president’s reputation in Iowa,” Grassley said.

Grassley also promised to keep fighting to reinstate the federal biodiesel tax credit, which lapsed at the end of 2016, and reform the incentive to focus it strictly on domestically produced biodiesel. Biodiesel advocates are pushing for a switch to a “producer’s” credit instead of a “blender’s” credit, which they claim will help support American producers instead of letting tax credits go overseas.  Grassley’s bipartisan legislation, the American Renewable Fuel and Job Creation Act of 2017 (S. 944), would retroactively reinstate the credit beginning Jan. 1, 2017, and extend the incentive through Dec. 31, 2020. A House companion bill (H.R. 2383) mirrors Grassley’s legislation.

“A credit for domestic production will ensure we’re incentivizing the domestic industry, rather than subsidizing imported biodiesel,” he said. “We should not provide a U.S. taxpayer benefit to imported biofuels. A producer credit will do what Congress intended — incentivize investment in U.S. biodiesel production.”

Newton Mayor Mike Hansen met briefly with Grassley after his speech, and he said he was encouraged to hear Grassley pledge his support for Newton’s clean energy industry. Hansen said he’ll work to make sure to legislators in Washington know Newton doesn’t support the EPA’s proposal.

“I will help him carry that message back to Washington, we need to drop this horrible proposal,” Hansen said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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