The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2019 rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that lifted outdated restrictions on the sale of a fifteen percent ethanol fuel blend (E15). The case, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, et al. vs. EPA, was a challenge by oil refiners to the rulemaking that allowed the year-round sale of E15. RFA, Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association were intervenors on behalf of EPA in the case and issued a joint statement expressing disappointment in the court’s ruling:
“We disagree with the court’s decision to reject EPA’s move to expand the RVP 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.
“We are working to ensure the continuity of E15 sales through the 2021 summer season and beyond. This decision could impact summertime sales across all non-RFG areas where nearly two-thirds of retail sites offering E15 currently do business. If E15 in those markets were to end, summertime E15 sales would fall by 90%.
“We are pursuing all available options and will work with the administration and our congressional champions to ensure that we have a solution in place before the 2022 driving season.”
In June 2019, EPA issued its final rule extending the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to E15, and found that E15 is substantially similar to E10 certification fuel, allowing its introduction into commerce by fuel manufacturers without the need for a separate E15 waiver. These actions allowed for the sale of E15 fuels year-round. Oil refiners soon challenged the rulemaking in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to undermine the expansion of biofuels in our nation’s fuel supply.
On August 21, 2020, RFA, Growth Energy and NCGA filed a brief as intervenors in the oil industry’s lawsuit against EPA’s regulation allowing year-round E15. The brief provided strong support for EPA’s position that parity in RVP regulations for E10 and E15 is consistent with the provisions of the Clean Air Act and the congressional intent behind those provisions. The organizations further pointed out that extending the volatility waiver from E10 to E15 is appropriate because the volatility of the fuel actually decreases as more ethanol is added into gasoline beyond E10.
RFA, Growth Energy and NCGA participated in oral arguments for the case on April 13, 2021.