Iowa politicians demand federal action on biofuels

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Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday she has asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan for guidance on how Iowa can sell year-round E-15 without restriction.

The D.C. Circuit Court overturned the EPA’s 2019 regulation that enabled those year-round sales.

The governors of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska joined Reynolds in telling Regan they were disappointed by the decision and wanted guidance on how to secure exclusion from the 1-pound per square inch (psi) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) ethanol waiver to ensure E-15 year-round sales remains possible.

“Fuel marketers and retailers, renewable fuel producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state governments have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to expand consumer access to low-cost, clean-burning fuels like E15,” the letter said. “Not only does the recent court decision threaten to strand these public and private investments, but it also jeopardizes the progress we’ve made toward cleaning up our fuel supply and reducing emissions from transportation.”

They said they believed Regan has the authority under Section 211(h) of the Clean Air Act to regulate E-10 and E-15 equally in volatility limitations and that that would make it possible for both fuels to be sold unencumbered year-round.

“Section 211(h)(5) of the Act establishes that upon the request from the Governor of a State, the Administrator shall apply volatility limitations to gasoline-ethanol blends that exclude the benefit of the 1-pound per square inch (psi) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver provided to E10 in Section 211(h)(4). If approved, it is our understanding that such a request would result in a volatility limitation of 9 psi for both E10 and E15 in conventional gasoline areas, thereby establishing a level playing field and allowing retailers to use the same gasoline blendstock for both blends all year long. We understand that some states have already requested, and secured approval, of such action by the Administrator, meaning the recent court decision will not impact the ability of retailers in their states to sell E15 year-round.”

Regan would have 90 days to make those regulations if they made the request.

“Thus, if we were to submit a request for exclusion from the 1-psi ethanol waiver this summer or fall, it is our understanding that the Administrator could promulgate rules acting on the request well before the 2022 summer high ozone season,”

The letter from the governors follows one from U.S. senators , including Iowa's two Republicans, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, in which they asked again to meet with President Joe Biden, his Cabinet and other high-ranking Democrats to discuss biofuels, particularly in light of rising energy prices.

They said in the letter that increasing access to affordable, reliable sources of energy requires responsible resource development and innovation.

“American biofuels represent both, and as we outlined in our previous letter, they hold the proven ability to provide consumers broad choices for cleaner and more affordable energy,” the letter said. “These contributions would expand with timely action by your administration.”

In an Oct. 18 letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Grassley and Ernst demanded to know when $700 million in aid for the biofuel producers that had been a nnounced in a June 15 news release would become available. The release said the aid would be distributed within 60 days through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.

Urban Air Initiative, along with several other groups, asked the U.S. Supreme Court in an Oct. 25 brief to review the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision, Ethanol Producer Magazine reported . Following the EPA’s 2019 decision, the American Fuel and Petroleum Manufacturers asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision. In July 2021, the court overturned the EPA’s decision, claiming the 1-psi waiver for E-15 exceeds its authority under U.S. code.

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