On June 26, Gov. Walz signed into law the Agriculture Omnibus Bill (Chapter 3, House File 8). The bill contains a variety of provisions, but the ones of special interest to biofuel stakeholders are those with specific policy language and funding for biofuel infrastructure. Read in conjunction with the recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Biofuels, this is a bridge funding package to expand access to E15. The provisions of this law will enable more retailers to upgrade their storage and dispensing systems now while new policy is shaped to create a robust and enduring funding mechanism so hundreds more fuel retailers can cross over to E15.
The law, at Section 2, subdivision 4, addresses both the funding and policy factors. Grants, totaling $6 million, will be available through June 2023. Fuel retailers will be eligible for the grants if they have 10 or fewer stations located in Minnesota and their equipment is unable to handle E25. The grants can be used to upgrade dispensers, fuel storage tanks and other dispensing system equipment. With a maximum grant award of $200,000, at least 30 fuel retailers will be able to upgrade their storage and dispensing systems to offer E15 and higher ethanol blends. In cases where, for instance, only the fuel dispensers need to be upgraded, the available funds will enable even more fuel retailers to offer E15.
This grant program is an excellent first step in building the bridge to get us from about 400 fuel retailers who now offer E15 to many hundreds more offering at least E15 across Minnesota. Based on recent interviews with fuel retailers, MN Bio-Fuels estimates that nearly 80 are ready to apply for grant funding so they can offer Minnesotans E15 and higher ethanol blends.
Since the interest in the E15 grant funding is so popular, the next step would be the adoption of the recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Biofuels that call for the development of “a state funding package with a dedicated funding source, modeled after the Petrofund.... Funds could be used to leverage federal funds and funds from private sources through public/private partnership with biofuel interests and other vested parties.”
That said, this grant program will further accelerate the momentum for E15. Rep. Sundin, Sen. Westrom and Gov. Walz are to be commended for their leadership on this issue and their commitment to fulfilling the Petroleum Replacement Promotion Law (Minn. Stat. 239.7911) by enabling more fuel retailers to offer E15. As we use more homegrown fuel in Minnesota, we will further boost the economy, decrease our dependence on petroleum and cut more greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. These are real wins for Minnesotans.