CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst plans to pursue a “rigorous line of questioning” with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
The freshman Republican indicated her support for confirming Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will depend on his support for renewable energy, especially wind, ethanol and biodiesel.
Pruitt has spent considerable time and energy fighting the EPA, and his selection is seen as a signal Trump is planning to rein in the agency. The EPA has come under fire for what many people, including Ernst, call costly and overbearing regulation.
However, Ernst wants to know whether Pruitt, who “comes from a petroleum-heavy state,” will support renewables.
“What I will be asking is where does he stand on renewable fuels, where does he stand on renewable energy?” she said in her weekly conference call with Iowa reporters. “This is very important to Iowa with our wind energy ever expanding and creating lots of opportunity in our state.”
Wind energy now produces more than 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity, enough to power 1.5 million homes, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association. It reports that $9.8 billion capital investment has been made in wind farms and manufacturing facilities and another $8 billion investment is expected in the next five years.
Wind energy supports more than 6,000 jobs in Iowa, the association said, pays landowners $16 million in leases and, after property tax abatements expire, will increase assessed valuation by $2.6 billion.
Ernst also wants assurances that Pruitt will “follow the original congressional intentions” with the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal program that requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel.
In Iowa, the ethanol and biodiesel industry accounts for more than $4.6 billion, or about 3.5 percent of Iowa’s GDP, and supports more than 43,000 jobs with a $2.3 billion payroll, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
She wants to make sure renewables are “topline issues” when she meets with him before Senate confirmation hearings.
“So understand that I will be going through a rigorous line of questioning with Mr. Pruitt,” Ernst said. “If he can say he is willing to support those efforts and keep our renewables at the forefront of his thought, you know, we’ll be going from there.”