D.C. court throws out ethanol rule that eased year-round sales of E15

By: - July 2, 2021 11:22 am

Reuters reported that President Joe Biden may lower biofuel blending mandates. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday threw out a U.S. Environmental Protection Rule from 2019 that made it easier to sell E15 blends of ethanol year-round.

The decision brought immediate reaction from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

“We are very disappointed by today’s decision to strike down EPA’s rule that makes it easier to sell E15 year-round in all markets,” Executive Director Monte Shaw said in a statement. He added that rules allowing year-round sales of the conventional 10% blends of ethanol should apply to E15, a 15% blend.

Sales of ethanol have been restricted in summer because of smog concerns.

“There is no scientific or environmentally sound reason to erect arbitrary barriers to the sale of E15 in the summer months, which has lower combined evaporative and tailpipe emission than either E0 or E10,” Shaw said. “Today’s decision really turned this section of the Clean Air Act on its head.”

Shaw said ethanol interests will challenge the ruling.

“The key will be to find a solution by June of 2022 to ensure the rug is not pulled out from under fuel retailers across the country who have added E15 to their stations, banking on the certainty EPA provided to offer the fuel all year,” Shaw said. “Ethanol producers will not abandon these retailers as we continue to find a path for E15 to be sold all year long.”

Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of biofuels.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, vowed to keep up the fight for year-round E15. “Today’s decision by the DC Circuit Court is yet another disappointment to Iowa’s hardworking farmers and biofuel producers,” Ernst tweeted.

The Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association and Growth Energy, a biofuels industry group, intervened in the case. “We disagree with the court’s decision to reject EPA’s move to expand the (Reid Vapor Pressure) waiver to include E15, a decision that could deprive American drivers of lower-carbon options at the pump and would result in more carbon in the atmosphere,” the groups wrote in a statement, Farm Progress reported.

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President and CEO Chet Thompson welcomed the ruling. “We are glad the Court unanimously found that EPA lacks the authority to grant an RVP waiver to fuel containing more than 10% ethanol, consistent with how EPA interpreted its authority for nearly 30 years prior. There is no ambiguity in statute and the previous administration’s reinterpretation overstepped the will of Congress.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.