KANSAS CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- Rod Snyder, senior adviser for agriculture at EPA, said Monday that the agency is on course to finalize a rule allowing permanent sales of E15 in eight Midwest states by the end of the year.
Snyder spoke to DTN about the E15 rule on the sidelines of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City's Ag Outlook Forum.
E15 is the blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. While E15 has been allowed year-round nationally in the last two years, that's been driven by emergency waiver determinations by EPA Administrator Michael Regan "because of the extenuating circumstances with the war in Ukraine and also just the broader impact of the overall fuel supply," Snyder said.
The request from the governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin would provide a more permanent solution, at least for those states. The request is more technical than an emergency waiver and falls under a different mechanism of the Clean Air Act where the governors are asking for adjustments to the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) requirements, Snyder noted. (RVP is a measure of the volatility of gasoline).
"I don't want to get too technical or too in the weeds, but this would essentially change the makeup of the blend stock of the fuel that would then allow E15 to be blended year-round into the fuel supply, and so it would create a specific market for those eight states," Snyder said.
After proposing the rule last year, Snyder said EPA is now close to sending that final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review.
"We've said publicly that our goal has been to try to finalize the rule before the end of the calendar year," Snyder said. "That's at least according to our regulatory agenda and timeline right now."
The attorneys general of Iowa and Nebraska in August filed a lawsuit against EPA demanding the agency immediately finish the rule.
ESA AND PESTICIDES
Speaking at the Ag Outlook Forum, Snyder highlighted the various court challenges EPA has faced about pesticide approvals and court requirements to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as National Marine Fisheries over the Endangered Species Act. Just this past month, EPA settled a "mega suit" involving hundreds of pesticide products involving the Endangered Species Act.
"If we continue to lose in federal court, there's a real risk we could lose with certain products of having them canceled or severely limited by judges," Snyder said. He added, "We have reached a point where we have to do something different."
The result of all these court actions is that EPA has to get a better system in place to ensure that the agency is complying with the ESA because federal courts are going to get impatient if a long-term solution is not put in place, Snyder said.
"We want the agency and our science-based process to be behind the decisions that are bringing products to market and not necessarily leaving that in the hands of judges who may not have the same expertise or who wouldn't have the same expertise. But that means we actually have to put systems in place."
EPA proposed its herbicide strategy in July, and the comment period on that is open until Oct. 22.
"That gives farmers and other stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in on how we are approaching the issue," he said.
EPA is looking at mitigation measures and practices farmers can use to reduce runoff and drift and how those could be included on future pesticide labels.
"That again needs to be science-based, agronomically correct information that's hopefully available for a broad array of production systems," Snyder said. "This has to work for corn and soy rotations, but it also has to work for orchards and different types of specialty crops. This is going to have to work for everybody for it to be effective."
Snyder added, "We want to have as minimal an impact on the average farmer as possible."
Snyder also talked about EPA's work on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS chemicals, a group of manufacturing chemicals that remain "persistent in the environment," because they were designed to withstand extreme heat and water.
Snyder said EPA is working with USDA to better understand the impact of PFAS on both plants and animals. He emphasized that the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, and FDA has found no PFAS in 97% of its food sampling so far. "There is not a reason for panic among the public," he said.
At the same time, PFAS presents a unique challenge in local areas where there is significant PFAS contamination in the water and soil.
EPA has already set national drinking water standards for six PFAS chemicals. Working with USDA, EPA is looking at issuing rules for PFAS contamination in biosolids next year. Some states such as Maine have already banned the use of biosolids such as sewage sludge used as fertilizer because of widespread contamination. Snyder said EPA is looking at the impacts on crops and pasturelands because of biosolid land applications.
"We have determined this is one of the primary ways for exposure on farms," he said.
For more, see "EPA Proposes New Ag Herbicide Rules: Q&A Six-Pack: EPA Draft Herbicide Strategy" here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Also see "Forever Chemicals and Risks to Farms" here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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