NATIONAL REPORT — Numerous industry groups are speaking in support of proposed changes by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would modify fuel dispenser labeling requirements and underground storage tank (UST) regulations to accommodate safe storage of E15 fuel and other higher ethanol blends.
The EPA announced the proposed rule on Jan. 19 and allowed for three months of public comments on its proposal to modify or remove the label and modify UST regulations to grant certain allowances for compatibility demonstration for storage of ethanol blends. The proposed rule, "E15 Fuel Dispenser Labeling and Compatibility With Underground Storage Tanks," is available here.
In comments submitted to the EPA, Growth Energy called for a fix to what it described as outdated and confusing E15 labeling and to ensure existing tank systems can accommodate the storage of E15 and higher blends.
"Growth Energy supports modification of the E15 label requirement to increase clarity and ensure it adequately advises consumers of appropriate uses of the fuel, while not unnecessarily dissuading the vast majority of consumers whose vehicles can refuel with E15…. In addition, Growth Energy strongly supports EPA's proposal to modify the UST compatibility requirements applicable to E15 and other fuel blends," the organization wrote.
It also noted that there is significant support that a wide variety of fuel storage equipment may store E15 if it is suitable for use with E10, and removing unnecessary impediments to use of such equipment is "imperative" to giving E15 equal footing in the fuels marketplace.
"As our nation faces the challenges of climate change, it's imperative that EPA act immediately to support greater access to cleaner renewable fuel blends for all Americans. E15 and higher ethanol blended fuels will deliver immediate benefits for our environment and are a critical piece of our nation's efforts to reduce carbon emissions," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. "Clearing hurdles to the sale of E15 and growing markets of biofuels would also provide an economic lifeline for rural communities as they continue to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19. Between the economic and environmental benefits, fixing E15 labeling and infrastructure is a win-win for America."
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) also publicly responded to the proposed changes, encouraging President Joe Biden's administration to move "swiftly to finalize the key elements of this rule."
"EPA's proposal would help to remove two crucial impediments that have prevented E15 from spreading more rapidly in the marketplace," said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper.
RFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis noted that the association believes that with a few modest revisions, the labeling modifications and UST compatibility provisions will result in expanded availability and use of E15.
The association also noted that data from the EPA and Energy Information Administration confirm that more than 95 percent of vehicles currently on the road are legally approved to use E15. Accordingly, the label should be modified to better reflect the increasingly small share of vehicles and equipment for which E15 is not approved, the RFA stated.
"While RFA continues to question the long-term need for an E15 pump label, we currently support the first of the two options co-proposed by EPA (i.e., modifications to the existing label)," Davis wrote. "We believe a modified label represents a reasonable 'middle ground' between stakeholders who support the complete elimination of the label and those who support retaining the current label design."
The RFA prefers a black-and-white label that lacks "unnecessarily alarmist" language. It also believes the EPA should clarify that its mandatory E15 label preempts the ability of state and local governments to require "duplicative and redundant" E15 dispenser labels.
The association also stated that it strongly supports the proposed changes to UST compatibility requirements while recommending the EPA reconsider the potential exemption from this requirement for USTs storing fuel for emergency power generators and other off-road fuel. Additionally, it argued that the EPA should slightly shorten the time allowed for states to submit revised State Program Approvals adopting these changes to federal UST regulations, going from three years to two years.
In jointly submitted comments, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) expressed the urgency of the EPA's proposed rulemaking.
"Iowa leads the nation in both corn and ethanol production and growing the market for E15 is crucial to our state's economic, agricultural, energy and environmental future. Regulatory changes have the potential to accelerate the commercial expansion of E15, which is the most immediate, available, and affordable path to carbon reduction in the transportation sector," the organizations wrote.
"While the proposed rule is a good start, the bottom line is that it does not go far enough. We want to help elevate it by knocking down unnecessary regulatory barriers that would prevent E15 commercial growth and stifle carbon reduction as a result," they continued. "We thank EPA for its consideration of our recommendations, and we stand ready to work with the Agency and the Biden Administration on this and other climate solutions going forward."
Among the key items addressed in the comments, the ICGA, IFBF and IRFA recommend the EPA's E15 label requirement be modernized and modified in a manner that is simple, informational and factual, while eliminating language and elements that are speculative, confusing or threatening.
The organizations also called on the EPA to revise its regulations to clarify that all existing UST equipment is "deemed compatible" with ethanol blends up to E15.
The full joint letter is available here.
The American Coalition for Ethanol also expressed support for the proposed changes, noting that finalizing the rule change would be an important step to treat E15 like other fuels.
"The proposed rule removes unnecessarily harsh restrictions that were put in place as a response to misinformation-based fear created by carefully crafted and heavily promoted anti-ethanol myths, which have been "busted" by more than 10 years of E15 use with retailers reporting no damage claims, and no increase in releases from UST systems," said ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty.
ACE noted its preference that the EPA remove the outdated E15 label altogether, which would eliminate the need for the E15 survey that has already established the alternative fuel as a consistently blended fuel. However, it strongly opposes the EPA's request seeking comment on other government entities requiring their own E15 labels.
"Allowing state and local government labels would be seen by those with considerable resources as permission to lobby for anti-ethanol labels at every government level," the organization commented. "It would create confusion and doubt for motorists traveling between states and would do the opposite of what EPA hopes to accomplish."
Lamberty also noted that the EPA's compatibility standards wouldn't change; they would simply allow station owners and operators simpler, logical methods to show their infrastructure is compatible. Additionally, while current UL listings for USTs storing and selling gasoline and ethanol blends already cover blends up to 100 percent ethanol, the EPA's proposed requirement for new UST systems and replacement to be compatible with ethanol blends up to 100 percent, provides an added visible assurance to station owners and operators of compatibility with higher ethanol blends, including E85.