EPA Provides Some Clarity on Mid-Level Blends in Court
Washington D.C. April 14, 2021– A three-judge-panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not go far enough when it extended the 1 pound RVP waiver to allow year-round E15. The Urban Air Initiative (UAI), along with a broad alliance of ethanol, agriculture and clean fuel groups filed a lawsuit in August of 2019 arguing that the EPA regulatory barriers limiting the sales of higher blends of ethanol are illegal.
The Urban Air Initiative agrees that the EPA’s decision to allow the year-round sales of E15 was a step in the right direction, however the EPA had the legal obligation to also allow the sales of blends higher than 15% ethanol. In court, attorneys representing UAI argued that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act’s sub-sim provision to prohibit sale of E16-E50 blends even in flex fuel vehicles is unlawful. UAI attorneys told the court that since ethanol is now used in the certification of vehicles, the sub-sim law no longer limits the addition of ethanol in gasoline. Therefore, UAI asked the judges to reject the EPA’s limit at E15 and allow the RVP waiver for higher blends of ethanol.
“We are encouraged by the court’s careful consideration of our arguments and look forward to its opinion. Regardless of how the court ends up ruling, these oral arguments are a victory for ethanol. The EPA repeatedly told the court that fuel retailers may continue making E20 and E30 for use in flex-fuel vehicles, seemingly walking back statements it had made in the E15 rule and other rules that implied that practice was illegal. While EPA must do more to clear up the cloud it has created on mid-level blends, EPA’s concessions are a good start,” said Attorney Jonathan Berry with Boyden Gray and Associates.
UAI President Dave VanderGriend says the arguments made in court are a small step in the right direction. “EPA’s inconsistent and arbitrary treatment of mid-level blends must stop. As we’ve argued, there is no reason to deny E20 and E30 an RVP summertime waiver, given that E20 and E30 produce significantly less evaporative emissions than E10 and are more affordable to consumers. Urban Air will continue fighting to lift these arbitrary restrictions on mid-level blends so cleaner fuel additives like ethanol can be used to improve liquid fuel.”
Besides the Urban Air Initiative, co-petitioners in this case also include National Farmers Union, South Dakota Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprises, Jackson Express, Jump Start, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, Big River Resources, LLC, Fagen, Inc., Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC, and Little Sioux Corn Processors. A ruling by the court is expected sometime this summer.