Some Iowa farmers and energy producers are calling on Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to oppose President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Iowa farmers Alice and Lyle Hodde; former Iowa Farmers Union president Chris Petersen; and Adam Mason, state policy organizing director of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, participated in a media call hosted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday.
As attorney general of one of the largest oil-, natural gas- and grain-producing states, Pruitt has stood up against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), an EPA-run program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The RFS has boosted demand for corn and soybeans in the U.S., as well as the rural economy. The oil industry has rallied against the RFS, and Pruitt has called the program “unworkable.” Pruitt has also challenged EPA regulations on carbon emissions and water pollution.
Ernst and Grassley recently met with Pruitt and they said he reassured them he would uphold the RFS, but some politicians and residents are still opposed to his nomination.
‘He represents going backwards’
“Pruitt’s history in Oklahoma is that of siding with big oil and big gas,” Mason said. “We’re not interested in going backwards. He represents going backwards.”
“Look at his record. From the get-go he’s been siding with big oil companies. I think he will gut the EPA,” Alice Hodde said.
During the campaign, Alice Hodde became concerned about Trump’s stance on renewable fuels. “When asked about ethanol, Trump had no clue what he was talking about. I think he had been given some talking points and I don’t think he was knowledgeable. You can see by his appointees that he favors the big oil corporations.”
She said she is “very concerned” about Pruitt as the nominee to lead the EPA. “He has proven that he sides on the side of huge oil corporations.”
“Scott Pruitt is another person who does not believe in renewable fuels, does not believe in climate change. I can’t believe that people don’t believe in climate change,” Lyle Hodde said. “We’ve got to use some common sense.”
His concern is that the progress made in recent decades may be reversed.
“We’re really concerned about … the appointees to key Cabinet posts. It seems like we’re doing an about-face on our policies. This is something we’ve been working 40-some years for. It’s finally taking off and we’re just getting now to the point where we can expand. The renewable industry is really exciting. There is so much we have to look forward to, and I am really concerned now,” he said.
“The RFS is a necessary evil. It’s the only way we can compete with multinational corporations. We have to level the playing field to have some access in the market. We just don’t want to go backwards on this thing,” he said.
Clean energy for the future
Petersen said wind energy provides good jobs to 7,000 people in Iowa, along with $17 million in lease agreements; Lyle Hodde said there are 43 ethanol plants in the state that produce 4 billion gallons of ethanol each year.
“I hope Mr. Pruitt changes his ways a little bit and pays attention to some very important objectives,” Petersen said.
For the Hoddes, who grow corn that is used for the production of ethanol, clean energy is very important to them and for the future.
“Farmers are very concerned about clean energy,” Alice Hodde said. “I’m not just talking about the money we make. I’m concerned about the clean energy in our country and what we’re going to be leaving our grandchildren.
“Both senators said they support ethanol industry. Grassley said he will push that when questioning the nominees. When Trump was on campaign trail, he supported the RFS and I expect him to uphold that.
“I just hope that our senators will hold to what they told us they would do.”
“The fossil fuels are a dinosaur,” Petersen said. “We’ve got to move forward with renewable of all types. It’s part of the solution to a decent quality of life all across this country. Scott Pruitt needs to realize that the future is the future and it’s green and it’s sustainable and it’s for the good of this country.”
Concerns over WOTUS
Lyle Hodde said in 2011, the river near his property flooded and destroyed half of his 1,200-acre farm. Because of this, he is also very concerned about the Clean Water Rule, or Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, which the Trump team has vowed to end.
“They threatened us on one hand with WOTUS and they’re going to pick our pocket now of renewable fuels. This is the most important issue farmers in rural areas have,” Lyle Hodde said.
“Middle America is suffering. It’s not easy to keep these towns operating and I’m not sure if the legislators realize how important small towns are to our country,” he said.
Pruitt’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18 at 10 a.m. ET.