Senators urge EPA to allow year-round E15 sales

By Erin Voegele | April 30, 2018

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt April 30 outlining the benefits of year-round E15 sales. The letter follows remarks made by President Donald Trump on April 12 in support of a year-round waiver for E15. 

In the letter, the senators ask Pruitt for information and a transparent timeline on the regulatory pathway forward to address the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) issue that currently prevents year-round sales of the fuel blend in most markets.

“Collectively, we are long-time supporters of the effort to address the RVP issue and make E15 available year around across the United States,” the senators wrote. “Allowing an open marketplace with more fuel options for consumers encourages competition and drives down consumer fuel costs. Moreover, E15 lowers evaporative and tailpipe emissions when compared to 10 percent ethanol fuel, improving the environment. Resolving this issue also provides a pathway to increase farm income at a time when producers are struggling with a depressed farm economy, low commodity prices, and tight margins.”

According to the letter, congress never intended the RVP waiver to effectively be a market cap on the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline. “Rather, this provision was intended to provide a pathway for ethanol to grow and thrive in the fuel marketplace when it was passed in 1990,” they wrote. “The current interpretation is outdated and has created an untenable regulatory barrier to E15 as a readily available option for motorists. As the fuel marketplace has changed over the past 28 years since the RVP waiver for 10 percent ethanol blends was first approved, this provision needs to change as well.”

The senators are asking Pruitt to provide an expected timeline of the rulemaking process to clarify how the EPA will make the change to allow higher ethanol blends access to the market. In addition, they ask the EPA to allow ethanol blends to be sold in the interim while the outdated regulation is being changed.

The letter is signed by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Growth Energy has thanked the senators for calling on the EPA to deliver on Trump’s promise to allow E15 to be sold year-round. “The president understands that lifting outdated government regulations restricting the year-round sale of E15 is the right path forward, and given the explosion of small refinery waivers by EPA, year-round sales should not require any refinery-driven trade-off,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy.

“We continue to be grateful to our champions in Congress for pushing the EPA to make good on the president’s commitment to year-round E15 sales,” Skor continued. “Lifting these barriers will create a new market for surplus crops, while strengthening our energy security and delivering a jolt to the rural economy.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has also spoken out to commend the senators for their commitment to E15. “We strongly support the call by nearly 20 U.S. Senators for EPA to allow the use of E15 this summer while the agency makes good on President Trump’s promise to correct the outdated Reid vapor pressure interpretation,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE.

“It is unacceptable for EPA to drag its feet to allow E15 and higher ethanol use year-round while it makes time to rubber stamp so-called ‘hardship’ waivers enabling refiners to escape their legal responsibility to blend ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Jennings continued. “ACE members applaud the strong bipartisan leadership demonstrated by the senators.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Fischer’s website.