Midwest governors take action on year-round E15

By Erin Voegele | April 28, 2022

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts; Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly; Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers April 28 sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan seeking a permanent solution to year-round E15 sales.

In the letter, the governors thanked Regan for exercising the agency’s emergency waiver authority to waive the 9-psi Reid vapor pressure (RVP) limitation for gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol for the 2022 summer ozone control season. “This action will help provide relief, flexibility, and certainty in the fuel market as we are seeing record high gasoline prices in our states and around the country,” the governors wrote.

“While this emergency RVP waiver will deliver economic relief and energy security benefits in the near term, a permanent solution allowing the year-round sale of E15 is also needed for long-term certainty,” they continued. “Accordingly, we are notifying the EPA, pursuant to Section 211(h)(5) of the Clean Air Act, that the RVP limitation established by Section 211(h)(4) increases emissions that contribute to air pollution in our states. Therefore, we respectfully request that EPA promulgate a regulation applying, in lieu of the RVP limitation established by Section 211(h)(4), the RVP limitation established by Section 211(h)(1) to all fuel blends containing gasoline and 10 percent ethanol that are sold, offered for sale, dispensed, supplied, offered for supply, transported, or introduced into commerce in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin beginning with the 2023 summer ozone control season.”

Reynolds, Ricketts, Burgum, Walz, Noem and Evers, along with Missouri Gov. Michael Parson, in November 2021 informed Regan they were exploring all options to ensure fuel retailers are able to sell E15 year-round, including filing a petition under Section 211(h) of the CAA.

E15 has been available for use in many non-flex fuel vehicles for more than a decade. The U.S. EPA first granted a partial waiver allowing E15 to be used in model year (MY) 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles in 2010. The agency expanded that waiver to include MY 2001 and newer vehicles the following year. The fuel blend, however, could not be sold in most markets during the summer driving season, from June 1 through Sept. 15. A June 2019 rulemaking changed that, extending the 9-psi RVP waiver to E15 and allowing the fuel to be sold during the summer driving season. The EPA’s rule was challenged by oil groups and in June 2021 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the portion of the June 2019 related to E15, overturning the ability for fuel retailer sell the fuel blend year-round. President Joe Biden on April 12 announced that the EPA will issue an emergency waiver prior to June 1 allowing E15 to be sold during the summer 2022 driving season in response to high fuel prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That waiver, however, will only apply to the summer 2022 driving season. The effort launched by the eight Midwest governors on April 28 aims to enact a permanent solution for year-round E15 sales in their respective states.

Growth Energy has spoken out in support of the governors’ action. “We are grateful to Governors Reynolds, Ricketts, Burgum, Evers, Kelly, Noem, Pritzker, and Walz for working to secure permanent, year-round access to cleaner, lower-cost E15 fuel,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “While President Biden’s recent decision to lift restrictions on E15 fuel nationally this summer was a welcome and exciting announcement, particularly as drivers across the nation continue to face high gas prices, we need a permanent fix to protect access to E15 next summer and beyond. The governors’ timely request to Administrator Regan would allow more drivers in their states to save money at the pump and reduce vehicle emissions as we work toward a national permanent solution. 

“Our nation cannot let outdated regulations stand in the way of a clean energy future and we look forward to EPA’s affirmative response on this issue,” Skor continued.

The Renewable Fuels Association is also thanking the governors for the efforts to ensure year-round sales of E15. “We thank Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and this entire bipartisan group of governors for their determined leadership,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “These governors should be applauded for pursuing a simple regulatory solution that will allow consumers in their states to benefit from E15’s lower cost and lower emissions 365 days a year. Once this notification is approved by EPA, it will mean lower pump prices for drivers in these eight states, lower tailpipe pollution, a more secure energy supply, and a more vibrant rural economy. These states have guided the way forward on E15, and we call on other states and the EPA to follow their lead, so that the benefits of E15 can be permanently enjoyed by drivers across the nation.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol is applauding the governors for ensuring retailers can sell E15 year-round. “ACE thanks this bipartisan group of Midwest governors for their leadership to ensure E15 can be sold year-round to help bring down prices at the pump while simultaneously reducing tailpipe emissions. E15 is a low-cost, clean fuel blend and losing access to this growing clean fuel market will only harm everyone through even higher pump prices and greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “ACE stands by these Governors as they pursue all options to ensure E15, a clean and safe fuel with lower RVP emissions than E10 and straight gasoline, can be sold year-round for years to come.”

Ethanol producer Poet applauded the governors for working to provide E10 and E15 with parity within their states. "Thank you to Governors Reynolds, Ricketts, Burgum, Evers, Kelly, Noem, Pritzker, and Walz for fighting for permanent access to E15, lower prices at the pump and cleaner fuels in your states," said Joshua Shields, Poet senior vice president of government affairs and communications. "Skyrocketing gas prices underscore the need for year-round access to biofuel blends, like E15, that save money, lower emissions and are made in America."

"The breadth of support from states across the Midwest proves that biofuels are truly a bipartisan solution,” Shields continued. “The governors' action is a shining example of how reaching across state lines and across the aisle can fuel a better future for everyone.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Reynolds website