Groups Press EPA's Regan to Act on E15

Ag, Biofuels Interests Want Change in Clean Air Act to Allow Year-Round E15

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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With six months until the start of the summer driving season, agriculture and biofuels interests are asking for a change in federal law to allow for year-round E15 sales. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- With just six months before the start of the summer driving season, agriculture and biofuels groups asked the EPA to change federal law to allow for year-round E15 sales, in a letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Thursday.

The Renewable Fuels Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union and the National Sorghum Producers asked Regan to consider making a change to current federal regulation instead of promulgating a new rulemaking.

"Specifically, we believe EPA should require the use of lower-RVP (Reid vapor pressure) summertime conventional gasoline blendstocks (i.e., 8.0 psi in attainment areas) for mixing with all ethanol blends," the letter said.

"This would render the 1-psi waiver unnecessary for the sale of both E10 and E15 during the summer ozone control season, resulting in fewer GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and slightly lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to ozone formation."

Year-round sales of E15 have been limited because the fuel has been ineligible for the 1-psi Reid vapor pressure waiver that allows the sale of certain ethanol fuel blends at 10 psi during the summer ozone season. The Reid vapor pressure waiver is a measure of the volatility of gasoline.

As a result, E15 has been subject to a stricter summertime volatility limit of 9 psi than E10, which is eligible for the waiver and can be sold at 10 psi.

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed out a Trump administration rule that allowed for year-round E15 sales. Eliminating the restriction on E15 use in some areas of the country from June 1 to Sept. 15 set in motion expanded offerings of the fuel by gasoline retailers across the country.

The agriculture and biofuels groups point to several studies purported to show scaling back the psi waiver to 8 nationally would help reduce tailpipe emissions and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"While the D.C. Circuit determined that EPA does not have the statutory authority to extend the 1-psi waiver to E15 (a decision with which we continue to disagree), the agency does have statutory authority to mandate lower-RVP summertime conventional gasoline blendstocks," the groups said in the letter.

An RFA study determined the cost to refiners of reducing the Reid vapor pressure in conventional gasoline by 1 psi in the summertime would be, on average, about 2 cents per gallon. The same study found the action would cost consumers just under 2 cents per gallon.

Another RFS study found the action would reduce carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds emissions.

"In addition, reducing the volatility of gasoline blendstock would result in significant evaporative emissions reductions from gasoline containers, small-engine fuel tanks, and other gasoline-storage vessels," the letter said.

"The economic value of these emissions reductions alone would offset any negligible increase in refining costs. We strongly urge EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to promulgate a rule mandating the use of lower-RVP gasoline blendstocks in conventional gasoline markets in the summertime."

In November, the governors of seven states asked Regan to consider a rulemaking to allow for the return of year-round E15.

"Fuel marketers and retailers, renewable fuel producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state governments have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to expand consumer access to low-cost, clean-burning fuels like E15," the governors said in the letter.

"Not only does the recent court decision threaten to strand these public and private investments, but it also jeopardizes the progress we've made toward cleaning up our fuel supply and reducing emissions from transportation."

The letter was signed by Govs. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska; Kristi Noem, South Dakota; Kim Reynolds, Iowa; Tim Walz, Minnesota; Doug Burgum, North Dakota; Michael Parson, Missouri; and Tony Evers, Wisconsin.

On May 30, 2019, EPA issued its final rule providing Reid vapor pressure relief for E15 just before the June 1 kickoff of the 2019 summer driving season. Oil refiners filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in the D.C. Circuit Court.

In August 2020, biofuel and agriculture groups filed a brief as intervenors in the lawsuit. In April 2021, oral arguments were held in the D.C. Court, and on July 2, 2021, the court reversed EPA's 2019 regulation.

Read the letter here: https://growthenergy.org/….

Read more on DTN:

"Seven Governors Want New E15 Rulemaking," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Five Ways to Save Year-Round E15 Sales," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley