Regan: EPA is evaluating authority to allow summer E15 sales

By Erin Voegele | April 07, 2022

U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan confirmed the agency is currently evaluating what flexibilities it has to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season during an April 6 hearing held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

During the event, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked Regan if the EPA is considering biofuels as a way to provide fuel price relief to consumers, stressing that E15 is often the most affordable fuel blend available at the pump.

Regan confirmed statements made by President Biden that the administration is looking at all the tools available to provide relief for high fuel prices. “We are currently evaluating what flexibilities we have around E15,” he said. “This is a conversation that I and Secretary Vilsack have been having quite a bit as of late. So, I can tell you that we are evaluating what Clean Air Act authorities we have to potentially take advantage of E15.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., echoed Ernst’s stance on E15 and asked if Regan thought the fuel blend could help provide a less expensive fuel option for consumers.

“I do believe that E15 can provide a less expensive option based on the data we have seen as of late,”: Regan said. “And, I also can say that we are evaluating what options we might have at EPA to look at utilizing E15 at a level that would be helpful to the American people and to help alleviate some of the pain that we’ve seen since Russia has launched its war against Ukraine. The president has pledged all hands on deck and for us to look at every single option. And, I tell you, along with E15, that is one of the reasons why I’ve been laser focused around providing certainty to the [Renewable Fuel Standard] program in general, because Congress’s intent was that biofuels would have a larger play in this space, so whether its E15 or [renewable volume obligations (RVOs)] we need to have a comprehensive approach to alleviating our dependence on oil and I think this is a path that we should pursue—and we are.”

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., offered a different view on the use of biofuels, claiming the RFS program increases fuel prices by as much as 50 cents per gallon and urging Regan to offer refiners relief under the RFS. That would be an “easy way to quickly relax and relieve gas price,” she said.

Regan responded by stating that he doesn’t agree that offering RFS relief to refiners “would have that impact on gas prices.” He also explained the EPA’s stance on small refinery exemptions (SREs). “I’d like to point to the law and what the law specifies in terms of SREs and I think we’ve learned in the past four to six years where the agency actually has legal authority to give these SREs,” Regan said. “I think the 10th Circuit [Court] recently spoke on how we look at these economic hardships and who qualifies for these SREs, so I would say that the agency has taken a very close look at SREs and what flexibilities we have in terms of what the courts have told us we can and cannot do.”

A full replay of the hearing is available on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works website