An Environmental Protection Agency official says the agency is exploring a variety of solutions that would allow E15 sales to take place in 2023 while also advancing a petition to legalize the sales in the Midwest the following year.

Last week, the EPA announced a plan to approve a petition filed by eight Midwestern governors for sales beginning in 2024 but said the timeline of the proposal and a pending 45-day comment period wouldn’t offer enough time for implementation to take place this summer.

EPA Agricultural Adviser Rod Snyder says he’s had conversations with EPA Administrator Michael Regan about steps the agency could take to allow E15 to be sold even after existing fuel volatility language kicks in at the beginning of June. Snyder spoke to members of the National Corn Growers Association Thursday at the Commodity Classic in Orlando and said the agency is “considering all options for summer of 2023; those conversations are certainly still ongoing.”

“I’ve talked to Administrator Regan directly on this just even in the last couple of weeks about what options we have available to us that are legally defensible, and we’re taking a look at that right now,” Snyder, himself a former NCGA staffer, said.

Speaking to Agri-Pulse following his comments, Snyder declined to elaborate on the steps EPA is considering, the timeline it has to make a decision, and whether or not the agency is considering nationwide relief or focusing its action on the eight Midwestern states.

“We’re looking at a variety of options, and that’s probably all I can say at this point,” he said.

“It’s an important few weeks now as we head into spring, but beyond that, I don’t really have any comment on the timing,” Snyder added.

Last year, the Biden administration used emergency authority to waive the Reid Vapor Pressure barrier to summer E15 sales. President Joe Biden announced the decision in a speech at an Iowa ethanol plant on April 12, 2022, and EPA formalized the paperwork to make the change on April 29.  

While the summer driving season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, May 1 is functionally seen as an effective deadline due to timelines in the production process between the refinery and the gas pump.  

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said EPA had communicated a similar message to his organization and was glad to see the possibility of 2023 sales. He said he was unsure of the exact legal mechanism the agency was considering, but argued the same emergency waiver authority exercised in 2022 could be on the table.

“We think the same conditions that justified those waivers being issued last year still exist in the marketplace today,” he said in an interview with Agri-Pulse. “We still have a war in Ukraine, we still have high gas prices, we have gasoline inventory levels that are even lower than they were a year ago, so moving into summer – which is always peak demand – we have more of a supply crunch that we had even last year.”

RFA was also involved in legislative negotiations last year that ultimately produced a bill to allow for nationwide sales that received the backing of the American Petroleum Institute. That bill has not been reintroduced in the current Congress, but Cooper said “it’s coming” and expects introduction to take place in both chambers.

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