USDA announces states to receive blender pump infrastructure funding

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2015 - Twenty-one states will receive grants aimed at doubling the number of pumps offering higher blends of ethanol at gas stations, USDA said today in a release.

The funding will come from the department's Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP). In all, $100 million in grants will be awarded that will lead to the installation of almost 5,000 new pumps at 1,400 fueling stations. The so-called blender pumps will allow flex fuel vehicles to operate on higher blends of ethanol such as E15 and E85.

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On a call with reporters Thursday afternoon, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said expanding the use of blender pumps is important for a variety of reasons.

“We are now learning that this is a maturing industry . . . that consumers want to have access to, and hopefully we will provide the kind of incentive and assistance to have expanded blend rates available,” he said.

The funding availability was originally announced in May. Thursday's announcement clarified the states and projects that will receive funding. Exact funding amounts will be announced at a later date, but Florida (892) and Texas (763) will install the highest estimated number of pumps.

Other states receiving funding include: Colorado (28 pumps); Illinois (428); Indiana (110); Iowa (187); Kansas (174); Louisiana (110); Michigan (89); Minnesota (620); Missouri (171); Nebraska (80); North Carolina (190); North Dakota (90); Ohio (148); Pennsylvania (308); South Dakota (74); a joint proposal from Virginia and Maryland (191); West Virginia (107); and Wisconsin (120).

USDA said department funds will be matched by private and state resources. The grants “must be used to pay a portion of the costs related to the installation of fuel pumps and related infrastructure dedicated to the distribution of higher ethanol blend,” but the matching funds can be used for related costs such as additional infrastructure, marketing, and educational and administrative costs that come along with a new blender pump.

Renewable fuels advocates were quick to praise Vilsack and the USDA for the announcement. Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, called the announcement “a tremendous win for American consumers.” He said the grants “will help build out the necessary infrastructure to increase market access for higher ethanol blends,” which will “provide consumers with a choice” of higher ethanol blends.

The announcement comes one day after the American Petroleum Institute released a study asserting that “severe economic harm” would result should the biofuel blending requirements called for in the Renewable Fuel Standards be enforced.

Vilsack called those claims “outrageous” and “preposterous,” but said the study stresses “the importance and significance of the opportunity that the biofuel industry presents.”

The EPA is expected to release final RFS blending requirements for 2014, 2015, and 2016 by November 30. In May, the agency proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) that were about 4.2 billion gallons below statutory levels sought by the renewable fuels industry.

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