Ethanol Blog

E15 Clock is Ticking, Will Time run Out?

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Renewable Fuels Association has asked the EPA to issue a proposal for E15 separate from proposed reform to market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

With the E15 clock ticking away during this partial federal government shutdown that includes the EPA, the Renewable Fuels Association has asked the agency to offer separate proposals in February -- one for year-round E15 and a second for any planned reforms to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler this week told a Senate committee that the agency is not working on the E15 rule during the shutdown, and that he intends for the rule yet to be completed in time for the summer driving season on June 1.

The one caveat: it will be completed as long as the government shutdown ends soon.

RFA President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Cooper asked Wheeler to make the change, in a letter to the EPA on Thursday.

Based on the current plan of action by EPA, the E15 rule is intended for completion by early in May -- including public comments.

"As you know, allowing year-round sales of E15 is critically important to America's ethanol producers, gasoline retailers, and farmers," Cooper said in the letter. "Given the dire conditions in the ethanol and grain markets today -- driven largely by your predecessor's unprecedented use of small refiner exemptions -- the opportunity for increased E15 use represents a vital measure of hope. That is why President Trump's renewed commitment to finalizing the E15 regulatory fix before summer resonated so positively at the American Farm Bureau Federation's event on Jan. 14. It is also why your pledge to complete the E15 rulemaking process before the summer ozone control season was so well received during the Jan. 16 hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee."

Completing the E15 rule by May 31, Cooper writes, "will take a Herculean effort."

He said the shortest timeframe that any Renewable Fuel Standard rule has gone from proposal stage to final promulgation was the 2018 Renewable Volume Obligation. That took 161 days.

Cooper said the 2018 RVO rulemaking was "relatively simple and straightforward. We believe extending the existing Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility tolerance to E15 is also a simple regulatory adjustment. Still, proposing the rule, allowing the public to comment, responding to those comments, preparing a draft final rule, subjecting that draft to interagency review, and ultimately promulgating a final rule will be an extraordinary challenge to complete in the 134 days remaining until May 31."

Although small refining interests have been pushing for reforms to the RINs market, Cooper said in the letter that "there is no urgency to move forward quickly with RIN reform provisions. This is particularly true as the previous uproar from refiners about 'high RIN costs' has been reduced to a murmur as RIN prices have collapsed to historic lows. Unlike E15, there is no deadline by which RIN reform measures must be finalized in order to allow fair and efficient operation of the market.

"Therefore, we respectfully request that EPA bifurcate the rulemaking into two separate actions, moving forward immediately on the year-round E15 provisions and considering RIN reform in a subsequent and secondary action. Holding year-round E15 hostage to RIN reform provisions that are ultimately designed to ease RFS compliance for highly profitable oil companies seems counterintuitive at best, and cynical at worst."

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

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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