The EPA has sent a rule proposing allowance of year-round E15 sales, as well as reforms to the biofuel credits market, to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Review of the rule that now appears on the OMB website could take up to 30 days to complete.
Originally, the EPA’s 2019 agenda included releasing the rule in February, with the intent to finalize in time for the summer driving season on June 1. Once the proposed rule is made public, the EPA will launch a public hearing period. The rule also includes proposed reforms to the market for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.
There remains considerable doubt about whether the agency can finalize the rule by June 1.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a statement that time is running out.
“RFA is pleased to see that the first official step in the regulatory process to allow year-round E15 is finally being taken, and we agree with President Trump that the RVP (Reid vapor pressure) barrier was always ‘unnecessary’ and ‘ridiculous,'” he said.
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“But the clock is ticking — there are now just 87 days before the start of the summer driving season and every day counts,” Cooper said. “Retailers, marketers, terminal operators and others in the supply chain are looking for clear signals and assurances from the administration that this barrier will indeed be removed before the summer driving season, as promised by the president. We look forward to the expeditious completion of this rulemaking, putting this onerous red-tape barrier behind us once and for all.”
In recent weeks, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he was doubtful the EPA would complete the rule in time. That was followed by a statement from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, saying the rule would be completed in time.
Following a speech to the ethanol industry at the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 13, USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky said his agency had approached EPA and suggested that, if the rule isn’t completed in time, EPA could use discretion in restricting E15 use come June 1.
Ethanol and gasoline are both low volatility. When the two fuels are mixed, the volatility spikes, but only at blends just below E10. As more ethanol is blended with gasoline, the vapor pressure decreases, which essentially means E15 reduces vapor pressure.
For years, the ethanol industry has called on the EPA to equalize the Reid vapor pressure regulations for E10 and E15 during the summer driving season. Because of those requirements, E15 has largely not been available to some wholesale suppliers and retailers during the summer. The industry has contended that adding 5% more ethanol in the summer would actually reduce tailpipe emissions.
Ethanol increases the RVP, which measures the release of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. The RVP for gasoline is the lowest, or most stringent, during the summer months when the weather is hot. E10 currently receives an RVP waiver, which keeps the fuel in compliance with RVP requirements year-round. However, E15 is not given the same waiver, so it can’t be sold in the summer.
The EPA regulates RVP for gasoline and gasoline-ethanol blended from June 1 to Sept. 15, restricting the retail sale of ethanol blends above E10.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN