E15 Year-Round Waiver Granted

EPA Approves Eight States' E15 Request, Delays Effective Date to 2025

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Eight states have been granted a waiver under the Clean Air Act to sell E-15 year-round but that rule by EPA doesn't go into effect until April 2025. The ethanol industry will again be waiting for an emergency waiver from EPA to sell E15 this summer. Nationally, there are more than 2,500 E15 pumps. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- EPA issued a long-awaited final rule Thursday allowing eight Midwest states to permanently sell year-round E15, but as expected, EPA delayed the effective date until next year, citing "concerns over insufficient fuel supply" as the reason for the delay.

States include Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The rule still creates a problem for the ethanol industry and fuel retailers for this year because they will need an emergency waiver from the EPA to sell 15% ethanol for the 2024 driving season. That impacts more than 2,500 E15 fuel pumps nationally, a high percentage of which are in the eight states now allowed year-round E15 sales next year.

"That's not to minimize the good news today but it puts retailers in an uncomfortable position and it puts consumers in a bad position," said Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. "We are not fine this summer."

The EPA decision comes just after the Renewable Fuels Association's National Ethanol Conference wrapped up in San Diego, California, where the EPA's one-year delay for the eight states was a major bone of contention. Another talking point was the extensive length of time it took EPA to grant the states' request.

The EPA delay until April 28, 2025, will create confusion in the market this coming summer, said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of RFA. He called it "extremely disappointing" that the Biden administration missed its statutory deadline by more than 500 days and now EPA determined there is not enough time to implement the new rule for the 2024 summer driving season.

"Why should ethanol producers, farmers, fuel retailers and consumers in these states be penalized for EPA's foot-dragging and failure to meet a clear deadline?" Cooper asked. "With the 2024 summer driving season just a few months away, we are urging the administration to take additional action that will ensure consumers have uninterrupted access to lower-cost, lower-carbon E15 this summer."

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, commended both EPA and the eight Midwest governors that have now locked in year-round E15 sales in their states. Still, she also pointed to the need to address this year as well.

"While this is great news, drivers will need a solution for this summer to minimize disruptions and make sure they have the same access to E15 that they've had for the past five summers," Skor said.

The new EPA rule allows states to use the same volatility limitation for both E15 and E10 -- essentially putting E10 and E15 on the same footing.

Among the eight states included in the rule are the top five ethanol-producing states: Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota and Minnesota. The sixth-highest ethanol production state, Indiana, is not among the states that requested the permanent waiver.

E15 has had a complicated time getting to year-round use, even if it is just eight states now allowed year-round. Former President Donald Trump first approved year-round E15 in 2019 with EPA immediately approving the action. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the Trump rule in 2021, stating EPA had exceeded its authority following a lawsuit from the petroleum industry. That led to the Biden administration granting emergency fuel waivers for year-round sales for the past two years.

Cooper called on Congress to pass the Nationwide Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., along with 10 other senators. That bill would open up year-round E15. Fischer, in a statement, called on Congress to take up the legislation.

"While I appreciate that the EPA has finally approved the year-round availability of E-15, the limited geography and needless delay until 2025 still complicates its sale," Fischer said. "Congress must pass my legislation that will at last provide a nationwide, permanent solution for the sale of this blend that benefits consumers, producers and the environment."

A similar bill in the House led by Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., has 34 co-sponsors but has not advanced since it was introduced last year.

Iowa officials criticized EPA for the delays. States ended up having to file a lawsuit against EPA to force the agency to act. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, led the coalition of eight states that filed the original petition with EPA.

"Finally, our request is approved, however, the EPA's unjustified delays come at a cost for drivers and the environment," Reynolds said. She added, "As governor of the nation's top ethanol-producing state, I'm pursuing a waiver to continue offering drivers the option to purchase lower-cost, cleaner-burning E15 in Iowa this summer, and I won't stop fighting for year-round E15 until it's available nationwide. The solution to making America energy independent is growing in the heartland."

The EPA rule for Midwest States https://www.epa.gov/…

Also see, "States' E15 Petition to Take Effect in 2025; National Waivers Likely in 2024," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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Chris Clayton