A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a rule change by the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency that allowed the sale of a 15% ethanol-gasoline blend during the summer months.
The move is a blow to the ethanol industry and to corn growers who grow the crop from which the fuel additive is made. They had predicted an increase in ethanol demand from year-round sales of the highest blend.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds denounced the decision in a statement.
“Iowa is proudly the nation’s leader in the production of renewable fuels, and today’s decision is a blow not only to our renewable fuels industry, but also to our fuel retailers,” said said Reynolds. “has worked closely with the Trump administration to ensure year-round security. E-15 sales, and I disagree with today’s court ruling. We will continue to defend renewable fuels and fuel retailers, and we will pursue all avenues possible to ensure that they can continue to deliver lower cost, cleaner E-15 to the people of Iowa.
Most gasolines sold in the United States today are blended with 10% ethanol. Corn growers and ethanol refiners have lobbied the government to allow widespread sale of a 15% ethanol blend.
The Trump administration made the switch to keep a campaign pledge to farmers in the Midwest, including those in Iowa, whose annual crop half goes to ethanol production. The EPA under President Donald Trump announced the change in May 2019, ending the summer ban on E15 blending.
The provisions of the Clean Air Act banned the sale of certain fuels with higher volatility from June 1 to September 15 to limit smog. Congress authorized 10% ethanol and the EPA, in its 2019 ruling, revised the interpretation of the exemption under federal law to include the 15% ethanol blend.
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Ethanol proponents argue that using more renewable corn-based fuel is better for the environment and helps meet federal climate change targets.
Three judges from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals rendered their decision on Friday. They said it is clear from the federal law that Congress has balanced “far-reaching economic, energy and geopolitical implications” and that the wording of the law “reflects a compromise, not simply a desire to maximize the production of gas. ‘ethanol at all costs’. They concluded that Congress did not intend to allow the large-scale sale of blends of more than 10% ethanol year-round and that the EPA had overstepped its authority.
The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the petroleum industry trade group that challenged the EPA’s ruling, said the court simply followed the government’s interpretation of the law that has been in place for 30 years.
“There is no ambiguity in the law and the reinterpretation of the previous administration has gone beyond the will of Congress,” said AFPM CEO Chet Thompson.
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The ruling is the second major legal defeat for the ethanol industry in a week. On June 25, the United States Supreme Court ruled that some petroleum refiners could exempt themselves from the requirement to blend ethanol into the gasoline they produce, further reducing the amount of ethanol blended. in the national fuel supply.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association said it will continue to work with the Biden administration, Congress and state officials to maintain consumer access to E15 year-round.
“It does not make sense to restore barriers that could hinder market access to a cleaner burning fuel choice that combats climate change,” said Carl Jardon, a farmer from Randolph, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
US Senator Jon Ernst, R-Iowa, tweeted Friday that the judges’ decision was “another disappointment for hard-working farmers and biofuel producers in Iowa.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said in a statement that gas station owners and farmers would lose money because of the decision.
“Consumers need to have access to these more affordable and cleaner fuels, especially during the summer driving season,” he said.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director Monte Shaw said in a statement that proponents of ethanol will challenge the court ruling.
“The key will be finding a solution by June 2022 to ensure the mat is not ripped off from fuel retailers across the country who have added E15 to their stations, building on the certainty provided. by the EPA to offer the fuel year round, ”he said.
Ethanol supporters could ask the full court of appeals to review the decision of the three-judge panel. They could also ask Congress to change the law to allow year-round sales of E15.
The industry is hoping this year’s sales will not be reduced because by the time the court issues its warrant and the EPA is required to comply, most of the summer season will be over.
This is the third summer sale of E15 authorized and there were indications that sales were increasing. Sales jumped 24% in Iowa from 2019 to 2020, topping 60.5 million gallons in 2020, the Renewable Fuels Association reported. This increase came despite a 14% drop in the state’s overall oil consumption from 2019 levels due to a decrease in the number of drivers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyler Jett, editor of Des Moines Register, contributed to this article.