A group of 19 members of the United States House of Representatives have taken a different tact in asking EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to stop issuing small refinery waivers to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
In a letter to Wheeler on Monday, the representatives led by Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, pressed Wheeler to stop issuing waivers because biofuels are needed to improve air quality in minority communities.
"We are concerned that these actions have effectively cut blending targets by 2.25 billion gallons," the letter said, "contributing to higher gas prices and elevated levels of harmful emissions, especially in communities of color. We therefore urge you to halt the issuance of any additional waivers and to instead consider steps that could help to unlock the full health and economic benefits of biofuels."
Groups like the Urban Air Initiative have been fighting to convince the EPA to expand the use of higher ethanol blends because of air-quality benefits.
The representatives said in the letter that transportation fuels have overtaken power plants as the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
"Unfortunately, these emissions have been found to cause or aggravate serious health conditions," the letter said. "The effects of these emissions are not borne evenly across our country. Evidence continues to mount that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, including transportation emissions.
"However, EPA waivers have served to keep ethanol out of the market, contributing to higher prices at the pump for American consumers and disproportionately harming low-income communities where residents typically spend a higher percentage of their income on transportation costs."
According to the latest numbers on EPA's online dashboard, so far in 2018 the agency has received 11 requests for small refinery waivers and none of them approved. In 2016 and 2017, EPA approved a total of 48 waivers.
MORE ON E15
On the E15 front, Massachusetts-based Cumberland Farms announced on Tuesday it would sell E15 at more than 120 of its stores, as part of the Prime the Pump program.
Casey's General Store recently agreed to expand its E15 investment to 500 more of its stations.
Currently E15 is offered at Kwik Trip, Sheetz, Kum and Go, Minnoco, RaceTrac, Thorntons, Protec Fuel, QuikTrip, Family Express, Holiday, Murphy USA, Rutter's and Cenex. EPA approved the use of E15 in vehicle models 2001 and newer.
By February, EPA is expected to release a proposed rule to allow year-round E15 sales as well as possible reforms to the renewable identification numbers, or RINs, market. This means the agency would have the E15 rule finalized in time for the 2019 driving season.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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