Court hears oral arguments in case challenging year-round E15

By Erin Voegele | April 13, 2021

A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 13 heard oral arguments in a case filed by oil interests challenging the U.S. EPA’s June 2019 final rule to allow year-round E15 sales.

The EPA published a final rule in June 2019 extending the 1-pound-per-square-inch Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15. The regulatory change allowed E15 to be sold year-round in most markets. Prior to the change, E15 could not be used to fuel non-flex fuel vehicles in summer months.

Within days of the EPA’s June 2019 announcement, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers filed a petition for review with the D.C. Court of Appeals challenging the agency’s rulemaking. Nearly two years later, the court heard oral arguments related to the challenge.

Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Corn Growers Association argued in support of upholding the RVP rule. “Oil refiners are simply trying to reclaim more market share by blocking American drivers from year-round access to a more affordable, lower-carbon fuel at the pump,” said the three groups in a statement. “Studies have repeatedly shown that the volatility of E15 is lower than that of E10. Other recent studies find that a nationwide switch from E10 to E15 would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions — equivalent to removing approximately 3.85 million vehicles from the road. If the refiners had their way and this rule was overturned, both volatile emissions and greenhouse gas emissions would increase. EPA’s E15 rule should be upheld because it is consistent with Congressional intent and the Clean Air Act, good for the environment, good for the rural communities that rely on a strong biofuels industry, and good for American drivers who want more options at the pump.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol also issued a statement in support of the EPA’s revised RVP regulation and the ethanol industry’s efforts to defend the rule. “EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act holding E15 to the same gasoline volatility standards as E10 is consistent with Congressional intent and reflects the realities of today’s motor fuel market,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “EPA’s ruling in 2019 cut the RVP red tape allowing more retailers to add the blend to their fuel slate and offer their customers a low carbon fuel with higher octane at a lower cost. We trust the D.C. Circuit Court will see through the oil industry’s opposition to EPA’s rule as a not-so-veiled attempt to cling to their status-quo market share.”

The court is expected to issue its decision this summer. An audio recording of the oral arguments is available on the court’s website