EPA proposal to allow E15 waiver, improve transparency

Source: By Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent • Posted: Monday, March 18, 2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed regulatory changes to allow gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol (E15) to take advantage of the 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for the summer months that has historically been applied only to E10.

EPA is also proposing regulatory changes to modify elements of the renewable identification number compliance system under the Renewable Fuel Standard program to enhance transparency in the market and deter price manipulation.

Under the proposed expansion, E15 would be allowed to be sold year-round without additional RVP control, rather than just eight months of the year.

— Prohibiting certain parties from being able to purchase separated RINs;

— Requiring public disclosure when RIN holdings exceed specified thresholds;

— Limiting the length of time a non-obligated party can hold RINs; and

— Increasing the compliance frequency of the program from once annually to quarterly.

EPA is welcoming public comment on the proposal and intends to host a public hearing on March 29. Additional details on the comment period and public hearing will be available shortly.

Last October, President Trump directed the EPA to initiate a rulemaking to expand waivers for E15 and increase the transparency in the RIN market

Sen. Deb Fischer , a member of Senate Agriculture Committee, said she is “happy to see the rulemaking for year-round E15 move forward as we approach the summer driving season.”

“However, I’m leery of what the EPA will do when it comes to RINs,” she said. “It’s hard for ethanol producers to have faith in a fair deal from the EPA after deeply disturbing revelations last week regarding small refinery waivers. While I support transparency in the RIN market, I am concerned that the agency’s future actions could negate the positive results of year-round E15 and negatively impact Nebraska’s farmers and ethanol producers.”

Fischer said that last week Reuters news agency reported that, under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA acted to help big refineries profit.

“I am angry by reports that show what we long suspected: former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ignored the law to help big refineries at the expense of farmers and ethanol producers,” Fischer said. “The EPA gave ‘hardship exemptions’ to profitable refineries, releasing them from their biofuel blending obligations.”

She said that according to projections, this could cause the ethanol industry to lose billions of gallons in demand.

“I intend to pursue legislative options to address abuse in the small refinery exemption process,” Fischer said. “I will also push new leadership at the EPA to make sure the agency is upholding the Renewable Fuel Standard as intended by law.”

Fischer was a lead sponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. It would have allowed retailers across the country to sell E15 and other higher-ethanol/gasoline fuel blends year-round, increasing regulatory certainty and eliminating confusion at the pump.

Gov, Pete Ricketts said Nebraska is the second largest ethanol-producing state in the nation.

“We are excited because the change will help add even more value to the billions of bushels of quality grains Nebraska’s family farmers produce every year,” Ricketts said. “We look forward to participating in the comment period and helping ensure all retailers offering E15 are included.”

Since 1990, Ricketts said the federal government has held E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, to tougher standards than other fuels during the summer. Between June 1 and Sept. 15, federal rules limit E15 for use in flex fuel vehicles only due to RVP requirements.

Sarah Caswell, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator, said she is hopeful that, despite the tight timeline, the proposal will be finalized in time for the 2019 summer driving season and will enable all retailers equipped to offer E15 the ability to sell that fuel for use in light-duty vehicles 2001 and newer.

“We look forward to working with industry stakeholders and all our ethanol champions in government to make year-round E15 a reality,” she said

Randy Gard, Nebraska Ethanol Board petroleum representative and chief operations officer for Bosselman Enterprises, said. “We should see an increase in fuel retailers across the state and nation offering E15 when the red tape and regulatory barriers are removed.”

Gard said the waiver takes the perceived risk out of the market for fuel retailers, which will stimulate ethanol markets.

“E15 gives consumers another renewable, low-cost option at the pump,” said.

A number of Bosselman’s Pump and Pantry stores in Grand Island offer E15 to consumers.

“E15 is the most widely tested fuel ever,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend. “Not only do higher blends of ethanol benefit motorists through cost savings, cleaner air and increased vehicle performance, but they also help rural America. E15 is a win for consumers, a win for farmers, and a win for Nebraska’s economy.”