Bills introduced in the House and Senate would allow summertime sales of higher ethanol blends, addressing a recent court decision that found the Environmental Protection Agency's waiver allowing year-round sales of E15 exceeded legislative intent.

The bills would change the language in the Clean Air Act to extend a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver, currently limited to the 10% ethanol blend most commonly purchased by American gasoline users, to fuels containing 10% or more of the biofuel. If enacted, the legislation would address the lack of certainty for summer 2022 E15 sales following a recent court decision to repeal a Trump administration regulatory fix.

“It’s long past time that the year-round sale of these renewable fuels was made permanent, expanding the market for lower-cost, lower-carbon fuel choices all across America,” Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., said in a statement. Craig, along with Nebraska Republican Adrian Smith and a bipartisan group of 20 other co-sponsors, introduced the bill in the House.

Similar Senate legislation was led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

In a statement, Fischer said the bill would “ensure consumers continue to have access to higher ethanol blends at the pump and that E15 can be sold year-round” and “create significant economic opportunities for the hardworking men and women in rural America who are providing the country with a low-carbon solution.”

The bills were prompted by a court ruling from earlier this month that said the underlying legislation lacked the language to support the Trump administration’s 2019 effort to provide the RVP waiver. The 3-0 decision from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is not expected to impact 2021 summer sales but could call 2022 availability into question.

Biofuel groups cheered the introduction of the bills.

“This legislation comes at a critical time on the heels of a court ruling that would allow the oil industry to monopolize the gas tank and push aside low-carbon renewable fuels,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our congressional champions to see this legislation through, and fight to give Americans an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment by filling up on earth-friendly fuel blends like E15.”

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings said the legislation is needed following what he called an “unfortunate” court decision.

“Since 2019, E15 adoption at retail sites has almost doubled with nearly 2,500 locations, and extending the 1-psi RVP waiver to E15 only makes sense to reflect the realities of today’s motor fuel market and year-over-year track record of successful growth,” he said. “Without this legislation, it is possible to lose E15 sales next summer, which would harm everyone through higher pump prices and greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions.” 

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, expressed his appreciation for the “quick work following on” the court decision.

“These bills will make it abundantly clear that the intent of Congress is to allow the year-round use of lower-cost, lower-carbon, American-made E15,” he said. “Increasing drivers’ access to higher-level blends like E15 remains a top priority for RFA, and we are committed to working with these leaders in Congress, and the Biden administration, to make that a reality.”

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