A fuel waiver was expanded to 38 states in response to concerns about fuel shortages from Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical depression, opening E15 sales in those states through Sept. 15.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement on Thursday, waiving requirements for reformulated gasoline and low-volatility conventional gasoline.
The waiver now includes the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas.
"The sale of gasoline containing up to 15% ethanol must continue to comply with federal rules, which are designed to minimize the potential for E15 being used in vehicles that are not designed to use this fuel," the agency said in a news release posted on its website.
On Thursday the Renewable Fuels Association asked Pruitt to shield E15 providers from some legal liability as part of the waiver.
The RFA said in the letter that the full potential of the waiver "can only be realized if EPA relaxes certain additional regulatory requirements" on the sale of E15.
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"Retailers' ability to utilize E15 immediately will require confirmation from EPA that certain regulatory requirements will not become obstacles to the sale of E15 blends during this period," the RFA said.
"Specifically, RFA requests that EPA clarify that its waiver includes the requirements in 40 C.F.R. Part 80, Subpart N. These requirements include obligations such as EPA pre-approval of misfueling mitigation plans prior to selling the fuel. Compliance with such requirements would make it virtually impossible for E15 blends to help alleviate the current supply shortages."
This is the second expansion of the waiver, as concerns grow about fuel shortages. The agency previously extended the waiver to 12 states earlier this week.
In response to the hurricane, EPA issued a waiver on Aug. 26 of certain reformulated gasoline and RVP requirements. Those requirements are in place to help reduce ozone pollution. The waiver allowed gasoline with less than 9% ethanol by volume to qualify for special provisions for alcohol blends requirement. That waiver, however, did not allow for blends up to E15.
On Wednesday, Pruitt approved an expansion of the waiver to 12 states.
In relaxing RVP requirements, gasoline blenders are allowed to produce fuel that complies with EPA regulations using any available gasoline blendstock on the market, including E15.
The U.S. ethanol industry has been pushing the EPA to issue a waiver on E15 for some time, holding out hope the agency would be able to take action that would allow for year-round sales.
Federal law forbids the sale of E15 from June 1 to Sept. 15.
Currently, E15 sales are restricted in nearly two-thirds of the country during the summer months because of ozone concerns.
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com.
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