Ethanol groups comment in support of proposed UST, E15 label rule

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Representatives of the U.S. ethanol industry on April 19 filed comments with the U.S. EPA in support of the agency’s proposed rule that would modify or eliminate current fuel pump labeling requirements for E15 and make it easier for station owners to demonstrate E15 compatibility for underground storage tanks (USTs).

The EPA released the proposed rule on mid-January. A 90-day public comment period is set to close April 19.

The EPA currently requires specific fuel dispenser labels for gasoline blends of greater than E10 and up to E15. The label was designed to alert consumers to the appropriate and lawful use of the fuel, according to the agency.

The proposed rule issued earlier this year co-proposes to either modify the E15 label or remove the label requirement entirely. As part of that proposal, the agency sought comments on whether state and local governments may be preempted from requiring different labels on fuel dispensers.

To facilitate the proper storage of E15 in USTs, the EPA proposed to modify the UST regulations to grant certain allowances for compatibility demonstration for storage of ethanol blends. The EPA also proposed compatibility requirements for future UST installations or component replacements that would ensure compatibility with higher blends of ethanol.

The American Coalition for Ethanol said the EPA’s proposed rule would make it easier for station owners and operators to store and sell E15 using existing equipment. ACE also stressed the proposed changes to E15 labeling requirements could reduce consumer confusion and resistance to trying the fuel blend.

“The proposed rule removes unnecessarily harsh restrictions that were put in place as a response to misinformation-based fear created by carefully crafted and heavily promoted anti-ethanol myths, which have been ‘busted’ by more than 10 years of E15 use with retailers reporting no damage claims, and no increase in releases from UST systems,” wrote Ron Lamberty, senior vice president at ACE, in his comments.

The Renewable Fuels Association said the proposed changes will expand E15 use and noted that 95 percent of vehicles on the road today are legally approved by EPA to use E15. As a result, RFA said the label should be modified to better reflect the increasingly small share of vehicles and equipment for which E15 is not approved. The RFA also said it believes the EPA should clarify that its mandatory E15 label preempts the ability of state and local governments to require duplicative and redundant E15 dispenser labels.

In comments to the EPA, RFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis noted the trade association “believes that with a few modest revisions, the labeling modifications and UST compatibility provisions proposed by EPA will result in expanded availability and use of E15, a cleaner, more affordable fuel blend that improves our nation’s energy efficiency, air quality, energy security, and resiliency to climate change.”

“RFA is supportive of many of the changes proposed by EPA, and we hope President Biden’s administration moves swiftly to finalize the key elements of this rule,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “EPA’s proposal would help to remove two crucial impediments that have prevented E15 from spreading more rapidly in the marketplace.”

Growth Energy also filed comments in support of the proposed rule.  “Growth Energy supports modification of the E15 label requirement to increase clarity and ensure it adequately advises consumers of appropriate uses of the fuel, while not unnecessarily dissuading the vast majority of consumers whose vehicles can refuel with E15…. In addition, Growth Energy strongly supports EPA’s proposal to modify the underground storage tank (UST) compatibility requirements applicable to E15 and other fuel blends,” the group wrote in its comments.

“As our nation faces the challenges of climate change, it’s imperative that EPA act immediately to support greater access to cleaner renewable fuel blends for all Americans,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. E15 and higher ethanol blended fuels will deliver immediate benefits for our environment and are a critical piece of our nation’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“Clearing hurdles to the sale of E15 and growing markets of biofuels would also provide an economic lifeline for rural communities as they continue to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19,” Skor continued. “Between the economic and environmental benefits, fixing E15 labeling and infrastructure is a win-win for America.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Iowa Corn Growers Association filed joint comments in support of the proposed rule. “Iowa leads the nation in both corn and ethanol production and growing the market for E15 is crucial to our state’s economic, agricultural, energy and environmental future,” the groups said. “Regulatory changes have the potential to accelerate the commercial expansion of E15, which is the most immediate, available, and affordable path to carbon reduction in the transportation sector. While the proposed rule is a good start, the bottom line is that it does not go far enough. We want to help elevate it by knocking down unnecessary regulatory barriers that would prevent E15 commercial growth and stifle carbon reduction as a result.  We thank EPA for its consideration of our recommendations, and we stand ready to work with the Agency and the Biden Administration on this and other climate solutions going forward.”

A full copy of the proposed rule is available on the EPA website.