The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 12 proposed regulatory changes to allow gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol (E15) to take advantage of the 1-pound-per-square-inch (PSI) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver for the summer months that historically has been applied only to E10.
In the 175-page proposal, which is expected to be published next week in the Federal Register, EPA also proposed regulatory changes to modify elements of the renewable identification number (RIN) compliance system under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program to enhance transparency in the market and deter price manipulation.
The rule has been months in the making after President Trump directed EPA on Oct. 11 to initiate a rulemaking to expand waivers for E15 and increase the transparency in the RIN market. Expansion of year-round E15 access has been a priority for ethanol groups, especially as demand has hovered around the blend wall for 10 percent of total gasoline usage.
“Consistent with President Trump’s direction, EPA is working to propose and finalize these changes by the summer driving season,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
Wheeler said the agency will conduct a public hearing on March 29 to obtain input on the proposal. In addition, public comments will be accepted through April 29.
Under the proposed expansion, E15 would be allowed to be sold year-round without additional RVP control, rather than just for eight months of the year.
The proposed rule would rescind a nearly 30-year-old limit on E15 that restricts sales to between June 1 and Sept. 15. EPA indicates it is committed to completing the rule-making process by June 1, 2019, the start of the summer driving season.
EPA said the proposed reforms to RIN markets include:
- Prohibiting certain parties from being able to purchase separated RINs;
- Requiring public disclosure when RIN holdings exceed specified thresholds;
- Limiting the length of time a non-obligated party can hold RINs, and
- Increasing the compliance frequency of the program from once annually to quarterly.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had been a key figure in White House discussions on finding a solution for E15, as well as defending ethanol in any RIN reform proposal, said he has some concerns about certain details about the plan, but said it is a significant step in the right direction.
“Ending the nonsensical ban on summertime sales of higher blends of ethanol is a no-brainer and a big victory for Iowa, Midwest farmers and the country as whole,” Grassley said. “Allowing year-round sales of higher blends of ethanol fits in well with President Trump’s mission to end bureaucratic red tape, create jobs in rural America and establish American energy dominance through increased domestic production. The final rule should reflect those goals in keeping with President Trump’s commitments.”