Governors Push for E15 RVP Waiver

NEW YORK (DTN) -- The Environmental Protection Agency is facing renewed calls to extend a 1-pound-per-square-inch Reid Vapor Pressure waiver that's available for 10% ethanol-blended gasoline to higher ethanol blends including E15, with the latest entreaty from seven governors of states in the Midwest.

EPA regulates gasoline specifications, with a low RVP rating required during the summer season, when higher ambient temperatures increase the release of volatile organic compounds from gasoline. Low RVP gasoline is required at retail outlets from June 1 to Sept. 15.

Ethanol increases gasoline's RVP when blended into the fuel.

In 2011, EPA approved the use of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles, but did not extend the 1psi RVP waiver available for E10. In 1989, EPA issued a RVP waiver for E10 after concluding there would be no air quality consequence and that retailers would be unable to secure ethanol blendstocks for gasoline blending year-round.

The Renewable Fuels Association, a national ethanol trade group, has long sought to have EPA extend the RVP waiver to E15, urging the agency in December 2015 letter to take immediate administrative action to eliminate what it calls a regulatory barrier impeding expanded use of E15 and other higher-level ethanol blends. EPA has said it doesn't believe it has the statutory authority to extend the waiver to E15.

"While RFA disagrees with EPA's conclusion on that issue, another option available to the agency would be to simply require lower-RVP summertime conventional gasoline blendstocks for mixing with all ethanol blends," RFA President Bob Dinneen said in a news release on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, seven governors from ethanol-producing states in the Midwest wrote to EPA supporting a RVP waiver for E15.

"We share common goals of eliminating unnecessary regulatory barriers, strengthening the free market, and expanding consumer choice by increasing access to E15 and higher ethanol blends," said the letter signed by governors from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

They asked EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to "remove a significant regulatory obstacle that is preventing large-scale availability and use of E15 and mid-level ethanol blends."

"EPA's disparate handling of E10 and E15 with regard to fuel volatility regulation is stifling the widespread adoption of E15 and mid-level ethanol blends. We strongly urge you to take immediate action to establish a volatility regime that allows a uniform gasoline blendstock to be suitable for blending both E10 and E15 (and higher blends) year round."

George Orwel can be reached at george.orwel@dtn.com

(BM/AG)