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In the era of “fake news” and dwindling public trust in professional journalists, supposedly “mainstream” outlets like Reuters ought to either actually play it straight or just admit their bias. Today, Reuters chose instead to fan the fake news-flames and ran this scintillating headline: “Exclusive: U.S. EPA grants biofuels waiver to billionaire Icahn's oil refinery – sources.”
To be clear, the headline itself may be completely factual—although neither the EPA nor the refinery in question has confirmed that such a waiver was actually issued. The problem is the context. Indeed, an exclusive waiver granted to Carl Icahn’s refinery, given Mr. Icahn’s well-documented support and relationship with President Trump, would be an issue worthy of additional scrutiny. However, according to an article published three weeks ago… in Reuters… by the same reporters, “An EPA source told Reuters last week that the agency had issued 25 small refinery exemptions [emphasis added], relieving the plants of their requirements to blend biofuels last year.”
In short, there’s not only no evidence Mr. Icahn’s refinery received special treatment from EPA; per Reuter’s own reporting, there is strong evidence to the contrary. It seems that Mr. Icahn’s refinery simply fell under the broad policy EPA is implementing to mitigate the unintended consequences of what is, without question, one of the most laughably broken policies on the books: the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). More on that later…
It’s no secret that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has endured a media firestorm over the last few weeks, with reporters and outlets digging for and supersizing not just missteps, but standard practices and spending that simply sound bad yet went largely unreported when they occurred during the Obama administration. Administrator Pruitt went before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week and answered nearly four hours of questions relating to these inflated scandals. Simultaneously and since then, several other major stories have pulled the media spotlight away from Administrator Pruitt and EPA. Yet today, countless headlines, soundbites, and social media posts have already gone out alleging corruption at EPA under Administrator Pruitt as a result of the Reuters piece. It seems clear that such is exactly the intended effect of publishing what is otherwise a non-story at this time.
Administrator Pruitt has been exceptionally effective in implementing the Trump administration’s broader regulatory reform agenda at EPA, accounting for a solid chunk of the regulations and regulatory costs eliminated government-wide in 2017. EPA now stands poised to completely undo some of the most aggressive and expensive regulations implemented by the Obama administration in the Waters of the United States rule and the so-called “Clean Power Plan.” Further, EPA is also pursuing critical reforms to the regulatory process that will limit the ability for future administration’s to abuse the rulemaking process as the Obama administration did. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that the left, including those in the media, are desperate to oust Administrator Pruitt. Lacking anything substantive, they’ve chosen the death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy.
Yet what this latest story regarding the RFS ought to prove is that each allegation surrounding Administrator Pruitt deserves substantial skepticism. There is simply no story here, as Reuters’ own reporting proves.
Administrator Pruitt and EPA seem to be implementing a broad policy to curb the chaos caused by the ill-conceived RFS. The RFS, as FreedomWorks and countless others from government to industry and progressive to conservative alike have acknowledged, is a fundamentally flawed program achieving none of its intended goals besides lining the pockets of the biofuels lobby and bolstering corn-belt Congressmen and Senators.
FreedomWorks Foundation submitted comments to EPA last September encouraging Administrator Pruitt to pursue this kind of policy—liberal use of his waiver authority. You can read our comments, including an analysis of the RFS and its various problems, here: http://www.freedomworks.org/content/freedomworks-foundation-submits-comments-calling-trump-administration-curb-renewable-fuels-0