EPA issues waiver allowing E15 sales to continue this summer

By Erin Voegele | April 29, 2022

The U.S. EPA on April 29 issued an emergency fuel waiver allowing E15 gasoline to be sold during the summer 2022 driving season. President Joe Biden on April 12 announced the agency would take such action as part of the administration’s efforts to mitigate high fuel prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The EPA and U.S. Department of Energy have been actively monitoring market supply disruptions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. According to the agency, the Clean Air Act allows the EPA administrator, in consultation with the DOE, to temporarily waive certain fuel requirements to address shortages. As a result of the war in Ukraine, EPA Administrator Michael Regan has determined that extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist and has granted a temporary waiver to help ensure than an adequate supply of gasoline is available. “As required by law, EPA and DOE have evaluated the situation and determined that granting the waiver was in the public interest,” the EPA said in a statement.

The EPA said the waiver will increase fuel supplies and provide consumers with more choice at the pump. The agency also stressed that it has no concern that summer E15 use will impact air quality.

“President Biden and this Administration are committed to protecting American consumers from the impacts of Russia’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine,” Regan said. “Putin’s war has had a profound impact on global and domestic energy markets. In consultation with Secretary Granholm, I have concluded that it is necessary to take action to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season in order to minimize and prevent disruption of summertime fuel supply to consumers.”

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. The emergency waiver issued by the EPA will allow E15 to be sold during the summer 2022 driving season.

Several Midwest governors are also taking action to reinstate the ability to sell E15 during the summer driving season in 2023 and beyond. 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 on April 28 sent a letter to Regan seeking a permanent solution to year-round E15 sales under Section 211(h) of the CAA.

Representatives of the ethanol industry on April 29 issued statements applauding the EPA for taking action on the emergency waiver for E15.

The Renewable Fuels Association thanked the agency for its quick action to implement the waiver. “We commend Administrator Regan and his team at EPA for acting quickly and decisively to implement the emergency fuel waiver announced recently by President Biden,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA.  “As U.S. and global gasoline stocks continue to shrink as a result of Putin’s war on Ukraine, EPA’s action will help prevent summertime fuel shortages while also protecting air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Extending the fuel supply with larger volumes of lower-cost, lower-carbon ethanol makes perfect sense, and we thank the Biden administration for turning to America’s farm fields for help instead of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. Today’s emergency waiver will ensure cost-conscious drivers across the country will continue to have access to more affordable E15 all summer long. The E15 blend has typically been priced 20-30 cents per gallon below regular gasoline in recent months, offering an important measure of relief to consumers during this time of surging inflation.”

Growth Energy welcomed the EPA’s action to implement a summer E15 fix for 2022. “We’re grateful to EPA Administrator Michael Regan for working quickly to fulfill President Biden’s commitment to deliver relief at the pump by ensuring unrestricted access to lower cost E15 this summer,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy “Not only has E15 been saving drivers as much as 60 cents per gallon, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and has lower fuel volatility and smog-forming potential, and supports economic growth across rural America.  
“America is the world’s largest producer of biofuels, and we should be making use of our full capacity in the push for greater energy security and a healthy climate,” she added. “Unfortunately, outdated restrictions that are unsupported by science and drafted before E15 was available stand in the way of allowing consumers to enjoy a cleaner, more affordable choice at the pump.   
“We are grateful to President Biden and champions like U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, EPA Administrator Regan, and our bipartisan champions in Congress for supporting swift action on E15, but we know the fight isn’t over,” Skor continued. “Lifting outdated restrictions on E15 through this temporary waiver buys time for policymakers to implement a permanent fix, and it’s vital that this administration and leaders in Congress work swiftly to restore year-round access to E15 in the years ahead.”  

The American Coalition for Ethanol thanked the EPA for delivering on E15 executive action. “ACE thanks EPA Administrator Regan for making good on President Biden’s promise to American consumers, the ethanol industry, and farmers by issuing a national emergency waiver for E15 this summer starting May 1,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE.

“While we are grateful EPA intends to issue new waivers effectively covering the 2022 summer season, a permanent remedy to expand consumer access for E15 long term is still necessary,” Jennings continued. “That’s why we encourage Administrator Regan to respond to the formal request by the bipartisan group of governors to allow year-round E15 access in their states, and work with Congress on a legislative fix.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association has also thanked the EPA for issuing the E15 emergency order. “We thank President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan for upholding the promise to ensure E15 can be sold nationwide this summer,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the IRFA. “It was very important this action was taken today before May 1 when fuel terminals would have had to start discontinuing the distribution of E15 to retailers. This way terminals and retailers can have certainty and there will be absolutely no interruption in consumer access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost E15.”