Lawmakers introduce bill allowing higher ethanol blend in gasoline after ruling

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) arrives for the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on July 13
Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to allow the year-round sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol after a court nixed a regulation allowing such a move.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), allows for the year-around sale of E15, the blend that contains 15 percent ethanol.

The lawmakers introduced the legislation after the D.C. Court of Appeals earlier this month nixed a Trump-era rule at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allowed the ethanol gas blend to be sold year-round, including during the summer months.

The reversal hurt the ethanol industry and corn farmers who harvest the crop used for the fuel, both of which were hoping for larger demands for the higher-blend ethanol throughout the year.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers is now working to bring back the year-round sale of the gasoline blend.

“For the past three years, we’ve seen that making E15 gasoline accessible to drivers year-round is good for drivers, farmers, and the environment. It’s critical that we pass this bipartisan legislation to continue this progress and stay on the path to a greener future,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

Fischer said the legislation will “create significant economic opportunities for the hardworking men and women in rural America who are providing the country with a low-carbon solution.”

“The recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling was a major blow to farmers and ethanol producers, and further highlighted the need to provide them with certainty. My legislation will ensure consumers continue to have access to higher ethanol blends at the pump and that E15 can be sold year-round,” she added.

The EPA first announced the change in policy in May 2019 to allow year-round sales of E15 ethanol, which was previously prohibited in the summer months, in an effort for the Trump administration to carry out a campaign promise that would help Midwest farmers.

Parts of the Clean Air Act, however, have banned the sale of particular fuels with high volatility during the summer months, specifically between June 1 and Sept. 15, to curb smog.

The EPA’s announcement during the Trump administration raised the percentage of ethanol Congress had permitted from 10 percent to a 15 percent ethanol blend.

The three judges on the appeals court ruled that based on federal law, Congress balanced “wide-ranging economic, energy-security, and geopolitical implications” and that the text of the law “reflects a compromise, not simply a desire to maximize ethanol production at all costs,” according to the AP.

They said that Congress did not mean to permit ethanol blends greater than 10 percent to be sold throughout the year and concluded that the EPA overstepped its authority, the wire service reported.

Fischer previously introduced the bill, dubbed the Consumer and Fuel Retailer and Choice Act, in 2017.

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