President Donald Trump is set to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rule making that would allow for summer E15 sales, a move that will engender support from the biofuels sector but also face a likely challenge in the courts.
Trump plans to call on Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to begin rule making on the necessary Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for summer E15 sales. The move will be coupled with additional rule making designed to bring added transparency to the trading market for Renewable Identification Numbers, the credits used to track compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard.
A senior White House official said the transparency measure could be addressed through measures such as required public disclosure of RIN holdings, time limits on how long RINs can be held, allowing only obligated parties to purchase RINs or through other means. Ultimately, EPA will decide the transparency measures that will be pursued through rule making.
The move comes after months of speculation about how the administration would address the president’s long-stated goal of granting the E15 waiver. Trump stopped short of approving a deal in June that would have granted the waiver earlier this year after Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, urged him not to trade the waiver for counting exported biofuels toward RFS compliance. In August, Trump called Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and instructed him to work with the EPA to finalize an E15 deal within a week.
The administration’s stated goal, an official told reporters on Monday, was to have the RVP waiver finalized in time for retailers to offer the fuel next summer. The change will go through the formal rule making process, so Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says that quick of a turnaround is “tight, but doable.”
“We’re excited to hear the announcement tomorrow and to work with EPA through the rule making process,” she said in an interview with Agri-Pulse.
Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the waiver has been the group’s “top regulatory priority for several years” and hopes it will lead to better business for biofuel producers.
“When markets are open and competitive, American consumers win,” Cooper said. “This is the right signal to the marketplace at just the right time, as both farmers and renewable fuel producers desperately need new market opportunities and sources of demand.”
The move is almost certain to be subject to litigation from opposed companies and industry groups. The EPA has previously stated it lacked the necessary authority Trump is set to call on the agency to use, potentially giving backing to legal challenge of the waiver.
“I can’t anticipate the ways that this could go sideways, but there’s a lot of people that are going to try to make it go sideways in the months ahead,” a biofuels industry source told Agri-Pulse. “Hopefully, (EPA) will come forward with the best possible rule that’s the most defensible.”
Trump is scheduled to announce the move Tuesday at the White House. He will then travel to Iowa for a campaign rally in support of local Republican candidates including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Rep. David Young, R-Iowa.
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