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MN Biofuels Submits Comments to EPA on Year-Round E15

  • Tuesday, 30 April 2019 09:44

On April 29, the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association submitted the following comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its proposed rules to extend an RVP-waiver to E15 and make modifications to the RIN market.

Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association (MBA) is a nonprofit biofuels trade organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. MBA is dedicated to supporting and representing the renewable fuels industry in Minnesota, providing consumers with greater access to renewable fuels and promoting biofuels for a greener and more energy independent Minnesota and America. Given MBA’s familiarity and engagement with a broad range of biofuel matters, we offer comments on the EPA proposed rule.


At the outset, it should be noted that the flexibility for E15 and RIN reform are two disparate rulemaking matters. The former matter is relatively straightforward and is a mechanism by which to make more renewable fuel available to Minnesotans and thereby more fully implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

On the other hand, given the issues the EPA seeks comments on in the RIN reform matter, on its face, it seems the RIN reform matter is more complex than the RVP matter for E15. Thus, given the disparate nature of the two key issues involved in this rulemaking process, MBA respectfully requests that the EPA bifurcate the two issues. The more complex RIN reform, to provide transparency and recover the billions of ethanol gallons lost to the refinery RIN waivers, could be addressed in a multi-step process over some reasonable timeline while attention is focused on resolving the more immediate E15 Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) issue by mid-May 2019. 

MBA has accumulated and analyzed E15 historical sales data over the last four years. Based on the data, MBA can pinpoint how the antiquated and misplaced RVP rule has held back E15 from Minnesotans with 2001 and newer vehicles during the summer months and, by extension, imposed unnecessary costs on Minnesotans, hampered the rural economy and squandered opportunities to further reduce air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions.

By finally granting the year-round RVP flexibility held by E10 to E15, EPA will begin to undo economic harm to rural Minnesota. Allowing the sale of E15 for use in all 2001 and newer vehicles throughout the year will create more opportunities for ethanol, produced in rural Minnesota, to be used across the State. Through EPA’s grant of an RVP waiver for E15, more renewable ethanol will be available to Minnesotans throughout the summer and the entire year. Consequently, Minnesotans will be able to more fully reap the energy independence, consumer, economic and environmental benefits from using E15 in their 2001 and newer vehicles throughout the year.

On the environmental front in Minnesota, based on the complete Greenhouse Gas (GHG) lifecycle analysis and current fuel usage levels, ethanol annually cuts GHG emissions in the transportation sector by over 712,000 tons. This result, according to the US EPA equivalency calculator, is akin to annually removing 150,527 vehicles from Minnesota roads. The EPA grant of RVP flexibility for E15 will help Minnesota to further reduce pollution and GHG emissions in the transportation sector. For instance, if all gasoline in Minnesota throughout the year contained at least 15% by volume ethanol, Minnesota could reduce an additional 358,000 tons CO2e annually in the transportation sector. This action would have the equivalent effect of annually removing an additional 75,368 vehicles from Minnesota roads. The key, however, to unlocking these benefits is for the EPA to extend the E10 RVP treatment to E15 effective June 1, 2019.


Issue: At FR 10585, the EPA proposes “to adjust the volatility requirements for E15 during the summer season or the period of May 1 through September 15. The changed volatility requirements for these blends will allow E15 to receive the benefit of the provision at CAA sec. 211(h)(4), commonly referred to as ‘‘the 1-psi waiver.’’ The 1-psi waiver allows gasoline-ethanol blends to have a higher RVP than would be allowed under CAA sec. 211(h)(1) and the corresponding volatility regulations, which prohibit the RVP of gasoline from exceeding 9.0 psi during the summer. Currently, only blends of ethanol and gasoline containing at least 9 percent and no more than 10 percent ethanol by volume (E10) are granted the 1-psi waiver.”

Comment: MBA supports the EPA proposal to adjust the volatility requirements for E15 during the summer season to allow E15 to receive the benefit of the 1-psi waiver. MBA also agrees with the EPA at FR 10587 wherein the EPA proposes an interpretation of the CAA “in response to the increased presence of E15 in the gasoline marketplace, and the conditions that led us to provide the original 1-psi waiver for E10 in 1990 are equally applicable to E15 today.”

MBA, however, disagrees with the proposed treatment of E15 made at blender pumps. See, FR 10595. While on the one hand the EPA proposed RVP parity for E15 appears to be a method by which to more fully implement the RFS and represents a step forward, the proposal to require the blendstock for oxygenate blending is a step backward. Either drop this proposal or offer some phase in time of, for example, seven to 10 years for the use of BOB rather than natural gas liquids. Some phase in period would recognize the time required by parties to obtain the necessary state regulatory permits and make the necessary changes to their facilities to accommodate such a requirement. As for the quality and chemical composition of the natural gas liquids, the product transfer documents can already address those matters.

Issue: At FR 10591, EPA states "We are proposing a new interpretation of this statutory provision under which the 1-psi waiver would apply to gasoline containing at least 10 percent ethanol. In conjunction with CAA sec. 211(f), this would then allow the 1-psi waiver for any ethanol blend that has received a CAA sec. 211(f)(4) waiver, which at present are blends up to 15 percent ethanol, based on EPA’s prior issuance of partial waivers under CAA sec. 211(f)(4) for E15.” Then the EPA goes through contortions to justify the use of its “inherent authority to reconsider, revise, or repeal past decisions to th extent permitted by law so long as we provide a reasoned explanation.”

Comment: E15 has gone through extensive testing, been determined to be a substantially similar fuel to E10 and already been approved by the EPA for use in 2001 and newer vehicles. While the EPA rightly uses proper legal reasoning to arrive at the conclusion it has the authority to grant an RVP waiver for E15, EPA ignores an obvious factor. Since the RFS contemplates the use of increasing volumes of renewable ethanol in the transportation sector, some fuel, in addition to E10, is needed. While E15 may not have been contemplated as a fuel in 1990, to attain the higher volume use of renewable biofuel required by the RFS, surely it had to be recognized that some higher level blend of ethanol, such as E15, would be required. Therefore, it seems the RVP parity and other related regulatory matters would, by extension, be applied to any future higher level blend of ethanol such as E15. RVP parity, among other regulatory matters, is the only method by which the terms of the RFS can be fulfilled.