Governors ask EPA to fix 'inequitable treatment' of E15 ethanol blend

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2016 - EPA's disparate handling of E10 and E15 with regard to fuel volatility regulation is stifling the widespread adoption of E15 and mid-level ethanol blends, says a bipartisan group of seven Midwest governors in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The letter urges EPA to allow Midwest fuel retailers the ability to offer E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles year-round. 

Currently, E10 receives a 1 pound-force per square inch Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver during the summer blending season (from June 1 to Sept. 15), while E15 does not receive the waiver during that time period. The governors say that the “inequitable RVP treatment of E10 and E15” has no scientific basis because E15 and higher blends are lower in volatility than E10 when blended with the same base gasoline. Oil companies manipulate Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), a measure of volatility, seasonally specifically to maintain engine reliability.

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The unbalanced RVP treatment makes it extraordinarily difficult for retailers in a conventional fuel area to offer E15 year-round as a registered fuel, the governors say.

“Today, bipartisan governors from around the Midwest are joining together to strongly urge the EPA to act now to correct the unfair treatment for E15,” says Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “EPA has the authority to resolve this regulatory hurdle to give more Americans the choice of a cleaner-burning, lower-cost, higher octane, renewable fuel, and we hope they do so immediately.” The letter was signed by the governors of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. To read the letter, click here.

More than 300 fuel stations across the U.S. offer drivers the choice of E15, the governors say, noting that the number is growing as a result of the USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership and industry efforts to expand use of higher ethanol blends such as Prime the Pump.

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) applauded the governors for sending the letter.

“EPA's refusal to allow E15, a fuel with fewer evaporative emissions than straight gasoline or E10, to be used from June 1 to Sept. 15 in many parts of the country because of an RVP rule is the primary hurdle to more widespread use of the fuel,” says ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “We applaud these seven governors for urging EPA to extend RVP relief to E15 and higher blends and we will continue to ask Congress to provide for a legislative remedy in the face of EPA inaction.”

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In a letter to EPA in December 2015, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) urged the agency to take immediate administrative action to eliminate the regulatory barrier, which is impeding growth in the use of E15 and other higher-level ethanol blends. EPA has stated it does not believe it has the statutory authority to extend the 1 psi RVP waiver to E15. While RFA disagrees with EPA's conclusion on that issue, another option available to the agency would be to simply require lower-RVP summertime conventional gasoline blendstocks for mixing with all ethanol blends.

“We just want RVP parity for E15 and E10, so the marketplace and consumers have the freedom to choose the fuel that works best for them,” Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen said. “EPA's continued inaction on the summertime volatility restrictions is stifling the growth of higher ethanol blends and incorrectly using that as justification to propose lower 2017 renewable fuel standard targets. We reiterate the need for EPA to address this issue.”

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