A ban on summertime sales of E15 is set to be lifted under emergency authority granted to the Environmental Protection Agency, offering a major victory to biofuel proponents who championed the use of higher ethanol blends as a way to combat rising gas prices.

President Joe Biden will travel to a POET facility in Menlo, Iowa, Tuesday to announce the administration’s action. A senior administration official told reporters Monday the move is an effort to use “all tools at his disposal” to lower gas prices for U.S. consumers.

The move is necessitated by a 2021 court ruling striking the Trump administration’s efforts to waive Reid Vapor Pressure requirements for E15; an existing restriction is waived in law for E10, language the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled was restricted to that specific blend and was unable to be expanded via executive order.

Biden administration officials acknowledged the previous decision and its reception in the courts, but said they were confident in the legal footing for the move.

“The approach, process, and specific authority are different here,” an official said.

The change will come by way of an Environmental Protection Agency national emergency waiver due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That waiver will be issued at a time closer to June 1 and will have a 20-day window; EPA plans to continue renewing the emergency waiver “so long as the current fuel supply emergency continues,” the official added.

Fuel retailers and other interests were hoping for certainty on the matter soon to avoid gaps in service due to the long lead times required for changes in the fuel supply chain. Administration officials acknowledged in recent comments that the move was being considered, with EPA Administrator Michael Regan telling a Senate hearing last week he believed E15 could offer consumers a less expensive option. 

The move is certain to elicit praise from biofuel backers who have been pressing for E15 action since the court ruling. Those calls only intensified following the Ukrainian invasion, which sent gas prices higher and on a continued upward swing after sanctions on Russian industries, including the energy sector.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the group also wants to work with Congress and the administration to secure a permanent fix, but the emergency waiver would still be a welcome announcement. 

"Lifting outdated and unnecessary summertime restrictions on E15 will ensure continued access to a fuel that has been saving drivers as much as 50 to 60 cents a gallon in recent weeks, offering working families relief at the pump at a time when they need it most," she said. “Not only is this decision a major win for American drivers and our nation’s energy security, it means cleaner options at the pump and a stronger rural economy."

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“Corn growers thank President Biden for ensuring that drivers continue to have access to a lower-cost fuel choice and for acknowledging how renewable ethanol helps reduce prices, lower emissions and improve our nation’s energy security,” said Iowa farmer and National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington. “Farmers are proud to contribute to cleaner, less expensive fuel choices.”

At the Commodity Classic in March, NCGA members were quick to cite a statistic showing that replacing one-third of the nation’s E10 with E15 would eliminate the entirety of Russian oil imports.

Administration officials also noted EPA was exploring changes to E15 fuel pump labels and dialogue with states interested in facilitating year-round sales on their own. Those changes would be on top of biofuel infrastructure spending through existing USDA programs. 

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