EPA Releases Year-round E15 Rule; Organizations React

The Trump Administration Tuesday released its proposal to allow for year-round E15 sales. The proposal would remove a barrier that limited the year-round sales, while also making changes to credits refiners use to prove they are using biofuel. In a news release, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated, “EPA is working to propose and finalize these changes by the summer driving season,” which starts June first and is also the date when E15 sales are restricted. The proposal would provide a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for the summer months that has historically been applied only to E10. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor called the rule a “critical milestone.” However, proposed changes to the RIN market are questioned by the industry. While many are still reviewing the proposal, Skor says Growth Energy wants to make sure that changes “do not upend the marketplace, and continue to encourage investment in E15 and other higher ethanol blends.” Before finalizing the rule, EPA will now accept comments from biofuel producers, farmers, and other stakeholders.

From the American Coalition for Ethanol

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings issued the following statement after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed rulemaking to allow the sale of E15 year-round, as well as its reform proposals to the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credit market:

“We’re pleased EPA has finally publicized its proposal to allow retailers to offer E15 to their customers year-round. With just 80 days to go until the start of the 2019 summer driving season, we will urge stakeholders to provide public comment to EPA, so a legally-defensible rule can be in place by June 1. Time is of the essence, particularly since EPA insists on saddling the E15 rulemaking with controversial RIN reforms that will need to be carefully reviewed to ensure they don’t undermine ethanol demand.

“Without a final rule in place by June 1, this year would mark the eighth time, since EPA originally approved a waiver for E15, that fuel marketers in many parts of the country have had to prohibit their customers from purchasing a lower-cost, higher-quality fuel option at the pump during the busy summer driving months. 

“E15 has lower evaporative emissions than E10 and straight gasoline and has been approved by EPA for use in 2001 and newer vehicles, 90 percent of the cars on the road today. Access to E15 all year will increase the fuel’s availability, reduce refiner RIN costs, and open much-needed market access for surplus corn.

“As pleased as we are with this important step in the process, the upside potential of E15 year-round will be blunted unless and until EPA returns sanity to the way it handles Small Refinery Exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA needs to restore the 2.25 billion gallons of biofuel blending obligations waived for large, profitable refineries.”

From the Renewable Fuels Association

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper offered the following statement on EPA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow year-round sales of E15 in conventional gasoline markets and modify Renewable Identification Number (RIN) provisions under the RFS:
“Today’s proposed rule means EPA is one step closer to making good on President Trump’s promise to allow year-round sales of E15. With just 80 days left before the start of the summer driving season, finalizing and implementing the E15 regulatory fix remains a tall order. That is why we have urged EPA to separate the year-round E15 provisions from the RIN reform provisions, and move forward as quickly as possible to finalize a practical and defensible year-round E15 solution. With ethanol plants shutting down or idling and farmers experiencing the worst conditions in more than a decade, removing the summertime ban on E15 once and for all would send a desperately needed signal to the marketplace.
“We are carefully reviewing the details of the proposed rule and look forward to providing EPA with extensive technical and legal comments to support an expeditious and legally sound resolution of this decades-old red tape barrier. RFA and its member companies will also testify in support of year-round E15 at the upcoming public hearing.”

From Growth Energy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its proposed rule that would allow E15, a fuel blend with 15 percent ethanol, to be sold year-round. Growth Energy, the nation’s leading advocate for ethanol, welcomed the proposal as a critical step toward providing consumers with uninterrupted access to a cleaner, lower-cost option at the fuel pump, but also cautioned against any changes to the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market that could undercut investment in delivering higher ethanol blends.

“This rule is a critical milestone for rural Americans who make renewable biofuels and for all American drivers, who may soon have a cleaner, more affordable, higher-octane fuel all year long,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We are still reviewing details of the proposal, and we look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that any changes – particularly in the RIN market – do not upend the marketplace, and continue to encourage investment in E15 and other higher ethanol blends. We appreciate the administration’s efforts to fulfill the president’s promise and will continue in our commitment to making the environmental and economic benefits of E15 available to consumers nationwide.”

The EPA announcement follows a decade of efforts by Growth Energy to expand consumer access to E15, most recently through the E15 Now campaign, which promoted the administration’s commitment to year-round sales of E15. The proposed rule would provide relief to over 1,700 retail stations across 30 states that now sell E15, often for only eight months out of the year, and remove a key regulatory barrier for other retailers seeking to offer a lower-cost, higher-octane option to customers.The proposed rule would lift a nearly thirty-year-old limitation on E15, which restricts sales between June 1 and September 15, and today’s announcement from EPA marks the first step in the rulemaking process. The EPA has committed to completing the rulemaking process by June 1, 2019, the start of the summer driving season. Before finalizing the rule, the agency will now accept comments from biofuel producers, farmers, and numerous other stakeholders.

From Senator John Thune

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today applauded Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to permit the year-round sale of E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol-blended fuel) in the United States, a win for consumer choice and energy security that Thune has sought for nearly 11 years, including significant and ongoing engagement with the current administration. This proposed rulemaking is the first step in the regulatory process to allow the year-round sale of E15 and follows through on President Trump’s commitment on this issue.

“I’m glad the EPA is moving forward with the E15 rule and is on pace to secure a win for American farmers and consumers,” said Thune. “I’ve pushed for the year-round sale of E15 for over a decade, and I thank President Trump for his commitment to seeing this through. Extending E15 sales through the summer driving season will expand consumer choice for a lower-cost and cleaner fuel, reinforce our energy independence, and provide a shot in the arm for our farmers. I look forward to further reviewing the rule to make sure its provisions will have the intended effect to expand ethanol sales.”

Thune first called for a waiver process to permit higher blends of ethanol in 2007. Most recently, on January 24, 2019, Thune met with then-Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to stress the importance of completing the rule by the June 1st start of the summer travel season, when E15 sales become restricted, and how easing this regulatory burden will assist South Dakota agriculture.

In April 2018, Thune joined 17 of his Senate colleagues in writing to then Administrator Scott Pruitt to highlight the benefits of E15, and they encouraged him to address the Reid Vapor Pressure issue that was preventing year-round E15 sales. He also wrote Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler in August 2018 to reiterate his support for biofuels. In October, Thune joined President Trump in the Oval Office for the administration’s announcement that it would initiate a rulemaking process for year-round E15 sales.

Additionally, Thune has actively sought transparency with, and ultimately a resolution to, the EPA’s unprecedented use of small refiner exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which have kept billions of gallons of ethanol from being blended and have distorted markets. Year-round E15 sales will lower RFS compliance costs for all parties and inject stability and certainty into the ethanol market.

The National Association of Farm Broadcasting contributed to this post.