Senator weighs in on ethanol
FAIRMONT — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the Green Plains ethanol plant in Fairmont on Friday to talk about local and national issues with company representatives and local leaders.
The stop in Fairmont is part of a six-county tour through southern Minnesota, where Klobuchar has been meeting with different companies and local representatives to talk about the economy and issues facing communities.
Green Plains, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is the second-largest ethanol producer nationally. The Fairmont location is one of two Green Plains ethanol plants in Minnesota, with the other one in Fergus Falls. The Fairmont location has 61 employees. Executive vice president Steve Bleyl and plant manager Jon Richardson represented Green Plains in the meeting.
“Fairmont’s been good to us,” Bleyl said. “We try to keep a lot of our business local as close as we can. We try to get that money spread out.”
State Rep. Bob Gunther and Fairmont Mayor Debbie Foster joined Klobuchar to talk about issues facing the community.
Foster said the main concern she has for Fairmont is attracting skilled workers to the area, and the ability to support the workforce through affordable housing and daycare. However, she is encouraged by the City Council’s willingness to take risks and work toward bringing workers to Fairmont.
“The majority of the council I think is willing to say, ‘You know what, I think we need to do something.’ We do need to do something,” Foster said.
A topic of conversation Friday that has been in the national news over the past month is the issue of the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.
The standard was created to expand the renewable fuels industry in 2005, and the volume standards were laid out through 2022 when the law was expanded in 2007. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can alter the standards in order to protect the economy.
The EPA proposed a reduction in the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard blending requirements. Following this proposal, a bipartisan group of 38 senators, led by Klobuchar and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent an open letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to show opposition to the proposed changes and stress the importance of the renewable fuel on the U.S. economy.
Recently, Pruitt announced that EPA will no longer be moving forward on proposals to lower RFS levels.
Klobuchar said the issue of renewable fuel has more to do with geography than party lines, which is why there is bipartisanship on both sides of the issue.
“We’ve really built coalitions along party lines, and that’s good,” she said. “It’s always better to be in that position. And we’ve been able to ward off efforts to basically get rid of ethanol and we don’t like that at all. We would rather be spending money and supporting the workers of the Midwest instead of the oil companies in the Middle East.”