U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa on Tuesday cast two of the 16 votes against the confirmation of Mark Menezes as deputy secretary of energy.
The two GOP senators from the nation’s top producer of both corn and ethanol said there were too many questions over the Trump administration’s handling of small refineries’ requests for waivers allowing them to buy less ethanol.
Menezes was confirmed on a 79-16 vote.
“Given the uncertainty with the ‘gap year’ small refinery waivers, the wasted time and resources to score the waivers again, the lack of transparency in the entire process, and most importantly, the toll this has taken on Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, we could not in good faith support Mr. Menezes at this time,” Grassley and Ernst said in a statement.
“Gap year” refers to the oil refineries’ applications for 52 new exemptions even though they failed to renew the waivers continuously as required. Grassley and Iowa ethanol industry representative Monte Shaw have been locked in a long battle with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has argued that the oil industry is being hurt by the costs related to blending ethanol.
In a letter to Menezes, Grassley and Ernst said they have learned of a half-dozen new exemption applications. They said granting the exemptions would hurt grain farms by making it hard to meet the nation’s goal for biofuels use. They asked that the federal government release the scoring documents for all exemption applications.