June 19, 2019 4:30 PM, EDT

Refiners’ Group Asks Appeals Court to Block Expansion of E15 Gasoline

E15 GasolineAn ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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A trade organization representing U.S. refiners is asking an appeals court to reject a Trump administration plan to expand nationwide the blending, distribution and year-round sale of E15 fuel.

The fuel is gasoline blended with 15% ethanol.

Though E15 is currently allowed on the market, nearly all gasoline sold in the United States has a 10% blend with ethanol — E10.

Most heavy-duty trucks are powered by diesel, but nearly 30% of fuel used by other trucks is gasoline, according to American Trucking Associations.

The final Environmental Protection Agency rule regarding E15, published in the Federal Register on June 10, will permit sale of E15 blends year-round. Previously the E15 blend was not permitted to be sold in the summer months because it creates higher emissions in warmer weather.

E15 by Transport Topics on Scribd

The new EPA rule is widely believed to be an attempt by the Trump administration to help farmers in the Midwest produce more ethanol.

However, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers is attempting to stop the rule from going into effect. So the association asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to invalidate the regulation.

“We fully expect the court’s ruling to align with what the EPA and Congress have each previously concluded: the plain language of the Clean Air Act does not authorize ... a waiver expansion beyond E10. Nothing has changed — a waiver for E15 is unlawful, plain and simple,” said Chet Thompson, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

The court challenge drew a quick response from the Renewable Fuels Association, which filed a brief on June 11, calling for the appeals court to preserve the EPA regulation and allow it to intervene in the appeals court case.

“It was entirely predictable that Big Oil would challenge President Trump’s effort to provide increased competition, consumer choice at the pump, and lower gasoline prices for a higher-octane fuel,” said Geoff Cooper, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

“President Trump was correct in calling the regulatory barrier to E15 ‘unnecessary’ and ‘ridiculous,’ and we greatly appreciate his effort to empower consumers and the American farmer,” Cooper added.

On June 11, biofuels firm Growth Energy filed a motion in the appeals court to also intervene in support of EPA’s E15 rule.

“It’s no surprise that oil companies want to block consumer choice at the fuel pump,” Growth Energy said.

“We saw the same kind of frivolous challenges when Growth Energy first secured approval of E15 in 2011. We beat them then, and we’ll beat them now,” according to Growth Energy. “The oil industry wants to inject uncertainty into the marketplace and discourage more retailers from offering clean, affordable options like E15. But the law is on our side. We know — and the EPA has said — the agency has clear authority to implement the law through appropriate regulations. A move toward cleaner fuels is exactly what Congress intended under the Clean Air Act.”

Growth Energy said that in 1978 gasoline containing up to 10% ethanol received a waiver. Since around 2013, “essentially all gasoline in the United States has been E10,” Growth Energy said.