Bill to enable year-round E15 sales introduced in House, Senate

By Erin Voegele | March 14, 2023

Members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on March 14 reintroduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which aims to implement a permanent, nationwide solution to allow year-round E15 sales.

The legislation aims to extend the existing 1-psi Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to gasoline blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol, reinstating the ability to sell E15 during the summer driving season. The bill was previously introduced during several legislative sessions, including in 2017, 2021 and 2022.

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 1-psi RVP waiver to E15 and allowing the fuel to be sold year round. 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 rule related to E15, overturning the ability of most fuel retailers to sell E15 during the summer driving season.  

The Biden administration temporarily reinstated the ability to sell E15 during the summer driving season in 2022 via an emergency waiver. That emergency waiver, announced in April 2022, was issued as part of the administration’s effort to reduce high fuel prices caused, in part, by market impacts associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

That waiver has since expired. Under current regulations, E15 sales will cease during the summer 2023 driving season.

The governors of several Midwest states in April 2022 filed petitions with the EPA requesting that the agency remove the 1-psi RVP waiver for summer gasoline-ethanol blended fuels within their states. If approved, the regulatory change would effectively allow year-round E15 sales in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The EPA on March 1, 2023, responded to the governors’ requests and issued a proposed rule that would implement the requested change in time for the 2024 summer driving season. A public comment period on the proposed rule is open through April 20. The EPA’s decision to issue a proposed rule that takes effect with a one-year delay has been criticized by representatives of the U.S. ethanol industry, who are urging the agency to implement the requested regulatory changes prior to the summer 2023 driving season.

The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, if signed into law, would supersede the effort by the eight Midwest governors to allow year-round E15 sales within their states by implementing a national regulatory change.

The Renewable Fuels Association is applauding introduction of the bill. “This commonsense legislation is supported by a broad and diverse coalition, ranging from farmers to filling stations and from ethanol producers to petroleum companies,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “We all agree that American drivers need access to lower-cost, lower-carbon E15 at the pump every day of the year and across this country. We thank Sens. Fischer and Klobuchar, Reps. Craig, Smith and Johnson, and all their fellow renewable fuel supporters for continuing the fight and reintroducing these important bills. Enough is enough—it’s time to finally remove the burdensome and nonsensical barrier that has blocked consumer access to cheaper, cleaner E15 for far too long. With the summer driving season right around the corner, we call on Congress to move quickly and adopt this legislation as soon as possible.”

Growth Energy is also speaking out in support of the legislation. “Without action, the fast-approaching summer driving season could be the first since 2019 without lower-cost E15 blends,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “This legislation represents an immediate solution that will deliver savings for drivers, lower carbon emissions, and offer greater protection from the global turmoil that continues to cast a shadow over our energy security. There is no reason to keep biofuels from America’s heartland bottled up, especially based on an outdated regulation. We are grateful to Senator Klobuchar, Senator Fischer, and their bipartisan allies who continue to fight for rural families and American drivers. The clock is ticking, but we have outstanding champions in Congress working to ensure that working families don’t lose access to their favorite lower-carbon, lower-cost option on June 1.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol is also endorsing the bill. “Securing national and permanent market access for E15 year-round is best done through Congress and we are enormously grateful for the ongoing leadership of Senators Klobuchar and Fischer, and Representatives Craig, Smith and Johnson for introducing this legislation backed with broad bipartisan, bicameral support to clarify the statute once and for all,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “ACE members look forward to fostering support for this legislation during our annual fly-in at the end of the month.

“Action taken by President Biden and EPA to issue emergency waivers allowing national use of E15 during the summer months of 2022 played a role in the record 10.5 percent ethanol inclusion rate last year. Given the urgency to ensure uninterrupted market access for 2023, ACE is pushing for immediate action via emergency waivers, passage of this legislation and other options to unleash the cost-saving benefits of E15 this summer.

Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., led reintroduction of the bill in the Senate, while Reps. Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Adrian Smith, R-Neb.; and Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., reintroduced the bill in the House. To date, Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Pete Ricketts, R-Neb.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and John Thune, R-S.D., have signed on to cosponsor the Senate bill. Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Andre Carson, D-Ind.; Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa; Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn.; Mike Flood, R-Neb.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Dan Kildee, D-Mich; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; Jake LaTurner, R-Kan.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa; and Zach Nunn, R-Iowa, are cosponsoring the House bill.

A full copy of the legislation is available on Fischer’s website