Final E15 label rule coming soon?

By Kris Bevill | June 24, 2011

The U.S. EPA could finalize its E15 labeling rule by June 30, clearing a major hurdle toward the introduction of E15 to the mass transportation fuel market. The Office of Management and Budget concluded its two-month-long regulatory review of the rule in early June and delivered the results back to the EPA. The EPA is projected to finalize the rule by the end of the month. An agency spokesperson declined to comment on the timeline, however, stating only that agency officials will be able to discuss the rule when it is final.

Ethanol producers are anxiously awaiting the conclusion of final necessary steps before E15 can legally be used in vehicle models 2001 and newer. The industry has stated repeatedly that it is bumping up against the E10 blend wall and market expansion is therefore vital for the industry’s continued growth. According to EPA estimates, approximately 150 million vehicles could potentially use E15 when it is allowed for sale in the U.S. By 2014, that number could grow by more than 30 million vehicles, representing 85 percent of U.S. fuel consumption. The EPA’s approval of E15 is being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by members of the petroleum, food and livestock industries, who claim the agency’s approval lacks statutory authority and puts consumers at risk. The E15 labeling rule is meant to mitigate misfueling in unauthorized vehicles and limit retailers’ liability against misfueling claims.

According to the EPA, the E15 label rule is also necessary due to the proliferation of blender pumps, which further creates a need for a misfueling mitigation program. Earlier this year, the USDA took steps to assist in the expansion of blender pumps nationwide, offering grants to retailers in rural areas to install necessary infrastructure. Various state programs and corn growers associations are also offering financial assistance to further spur the build-out of blender pumps. In May, Iowa became the first state to offer incentives for the sale of E15, establishing a 3-cent tax credit for each gallon of E15 sold beginning July 1 or as soon as the EPA gives final approval for the fuel’s use.