LETTER TO EPA CALLS FOR SOLUTION TO COSTLY, BURDENSOME ETHANOL REGULATIONS

Lindsay Mitchell

Feb, 20, 2017  |  Today's News

Last week, five Senators sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, asking him to address the EPA’s volatility regulation, a rule that makes it more difficult to sell ethanol blends above 10% year-round. The senators asked the administrator to extend the 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver to E15 and other higher ethanol blends.

When it’s really hot, emissions evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution.  The EPA doesn’t want that to happen. So they measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard.  The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are. The RVP of pure ethanol is 2.  The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15. But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard.  The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10. However, a 15% blend of ethanol has a much lower RVP.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) led the letter along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and John Thune (R-SD)

The senators wrote, in part: “The Clean Air Act (CAA) limits the volatility of gasoline, as measured by Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), to nine pounds per square inch (psi) from June 1 – September 15. In 1989, the EPA adopted an interim 1-psi RVP ‘waiver’ for gasoline blends containing ten percent ethanol (E10), and this waiver was later codified through amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.”

However, “despite repeated requests, the EPA has refused to grant this same 1-psi waiver to gasoline blends that contain more than ten percent ethanol, such as E15. As a result, sales of E15 in most of the country are severely restricted between June 1 and September 15 – the peak summer driving season. Retailers are forced to find specially tailored low-RVP gasoline blendstock to make E15 in the summertime, or avoid selling the fuel altogether. Neither of these options are practical or economical for most retailers and their customers.”

The letter also called for a solution to ease this strain on retailers and consumers: “without the waiver being extended, this archaic policy prevents E15 from enjoying the same treatment year-round, discouraging retailers from installing infrastructure to distribute these fuel alternatives, and ultimately increasing costs for consumers. We ask that you extend the 1-psi RVP waiver to E15 and higher blends, to eliminate this needless obstacle to consumer choice.”

In other words, Congress gave the EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months. But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 17, 2017

The Honorable E. Scott Pruitt
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

Dear Mr. Pruitt:

We write today to express our willingness to work with you and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grow our country’s economy and support American jobs. Thank you for all of the answers you provided to us and our colleagues over the course of your confirmation process in the Senate. We are anxious to support you in your efforts to remove harmful and unnecessary regulations that serve as barriers to economic growth and effective environmental protection.

One such barrier we would like to highlight is a nonsensical regulation that makes it more difficult to sell gasoline with ethanol content above ten percent during the summer months. The Clean Air Act (CAA) limits the volatility of gasoline, as measured by Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), to nine pounds per square inch (psi) from June 1 – September 15. In 1989, the EPA adopted an interim 1-psi RVP “waiver” for gasoline blends containing ten percent ethanol (E10), and this waiver was later codified through amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Despite repeated requests, the EPA has refused to grant this same 1-psi waiver to gasoline blends that contain more than ten percent ethanol, such as E15. As a result, sales of E15 in most of the country are severely restricted between June 1 and September 15 – the peak summer driving season. Retailers are forced to find specially tailored low-RVP gasoline blendstock to make E15 in the summertime, or avoid selling the fuel altogether. Neither of these options are practical or economical for most retailers and their customers.

Ironically, the volatility of E15 and other higher blends is actually lower than that of E10, meaning there is a slight evaporative emissions benefit associated with replacing a gallon of E10 with a gallon of E15. Unfortunately, without the waiver being extended, this archaic policy prevents E15 from enjoying the same treatment year round, discouraging retailers from installing infrastructure to distribute these fuel alternatives, and ultimately increasing costs for consumers.

We ask that you extend the 1-psi RVP waiver to E15 and higher blends, to eliminate this needless obstacle to consumer choice. We look forward to working with you to find a permanent solution to this issue.

Sincerely,

JONI K. ERNST                    CHARLES E. GRASSLEY
United States Senator          United States Senator

ROY BLUNT                         PAT ROBERTS
United States Senator          United States Senator

JOHN THUNE
United States Senator