Biofuel industry and corn farmers asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday for a new hearing on a ruling that struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's 2019 decision to allow year-around E15 sales. 

In their petition, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and National Corn Growers Association claimed a three-judge panel made “significant legal errors” in the July 2 decision in the case, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, et al. vs. EPA.

Before June 2019, retailers could not sell E15 blended gasoline from June 1 through September 15. In July, a federal appeals court ruled 3-0 that a Trump administration action to expand summertime sales of the fuel was not supported by the legislative text underwriting the program.

If that ruling stands, the three organizations said it will have devasting consequences for market expansion of the biofuels industry.

“Petitioning for a rehearing is a critical next step in giving biofuel producers and farmers a fair shot in the marketplace and providing American drivers with better access to cleaner fuel choices,” the organizations said.

The EPA final rule extended a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to E15, noting the fuel is similar to gasoline blends with 10% ethanol. Farm and renewable fuel groups intervened in the lawsuit oil refiners filed in August 2020, arguing “parity in RVP regulations for E10 and E15 is consistent with the provisions of the Clean Air Act and the congressional intent behind those provisions.”

The legislative text was a point of contention for lawyers during oral arguments in April. Oil groups argued Congress did not say “at least 10%” in the part of the statute discussing the waiver.

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In addition to the effort in the court system, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced House and Senate bills to allow year-round E15 sales following the court's July decision. 

The bills would extend the RVP waiver text in the Clean Air Act to higher gasoline blends beyond 10% ethanol. Democrat Angie Craig of Minnesota and Republican Adrian Smith of Nebraska have introduced legislation in the House. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

“Legislation is the right thing to do but you’ve heard me express the difficulty when you’re up against big oil,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, told reporters Tuesday.

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