EPA approves RFA plan to mitigate E15 misfueling

By Kris Bevill | March 16, 2012

The U.S. EPA issued its approval on March 15 of a Misfueling Mitigation Plan for E15 submitted by the Renewable Fuels Association earlier this month, clearing another hurdle toward allowing the fuel to be sold to consumers.

“Americans will soon have a safe and effective new fuel option at the pump that is domestically made and significantly cheaper than gasoline,” RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said in a statement. “E15 ethanol blends have withstood rigorous testing and mountains of challenges. With today’s announcement, EPA is clearing the way for E15 and allowing America’s ethanol industry to turn its full attention to educating retailers and consumers on the benefits of higher level ethanol blends and ensuring that state fuel regulations allow for their sale.”

The EPA approved E15 for use in vehicle models 2001 and newer in January 2011. Because the fuel is not approved for use in all vehicles or in small engines, the agency required that a number of conditions be met by retailers offering the fuel to prevent misuse of E15 by consumers. Those conditions include proper labeling of E15 dispensers, the use of product transfer documents to accompany all transfers of fuels for E15 use, and compliance surveys. Prior to selling E15, parties are required to submit a MMP to the EPA to demonstrate their compliance of these measures. In a letter sent to the RFA on March 15, the EPA agreed that its model plan would “generally be sufficient” to satisfy those requirements. The EPA noted that the RFA’s plan does not lay out specific elements of a survey plan, so companies using the RFA model will be required to submit a separate survey plan for EPA approval.

The RFA is making its model plan available for use as well as a complementary E15 Retailer Handbook, which offers additional guidance for retailers in the areas of infrastructure compatibility, safety and conversion practices and state specific regulatory requirements. The 44-page handbook is meant to help ensure compliance with the EPA’s misfueling mitigation requirements and make retailers aware of the labeling requirements in addition to the regulations surrounding blending, storing and dispensing E15, according to the RFA. The RFA is also providing EPA-approved E15 labels at no charge to retailers.

Many states still have regulatory issues that prevent E15 from being sold, but the RFA suggested that several states, specifically Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, have resolved those issues and will be the first to introduce E15 to consumers.

In order to educate consumers and further ensure proper use of E15, the RFA noted in its MMP that a coalition known as the E15 Educational Outreach Coalition (E15EOC) has been formed and will provide public outreach and consumer education through printed materials and a website created specifically to address E15 use. E15EOC is open to all stakeholders, including members of the public, and currently includes ethanol manufacturers, blenders, government agencies, marketers, and vehicle manufacturers, according to the RFA.

Meanwhile, Dinneen said the RFA will also continue to battle E15 naysayers at the legislative level who continue to assert that the fuel has not been adequately tested and should not be introduced to the market. “Gaining meaningful market penetration for E15 will not happen overnight,” he said. “It will take a constant and driven effort to educate consumers and fend off unfounded claims by anti-ethanol voices in the fuels industry and on Capitol Hill. The RFA is committed to providing sound information to all interested parties to dispel misinformation and facilitate a safe and smooth introduction of America’s newest fuel option.”

The EPA has made the RFA’s model plan available on its websiteand provides detailed information for retailers who wish to use the model plan for compliance.