To help support home-state farmers across America, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) spearheaded a bipartisan group of 23 U.S. House members in seeking approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for year-round sales of E15 fuel.

E15, a higher octane fuel composed of 5 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, received EPA approval in 2012 for use in model year 2001 and newer cars, light-duty trucks, medium-sized SUVs, and all flex-fuel vehicles, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, which says E15 is available at retail fueling stations in 28 states.

Rep. Noem and her House colleagues sent a Sept. 13 letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler strongly encouraging the Trump administration to reduce federal regulations on ethanol rather than implementing policies that they said only work against American farmers and slow down growth of the biofuels market.

“Our ag economy has really suffered in recent years,” Rep. Noem said on Sept. 18. “By ending unnecessary limitations on E15, we have a big opportunity to help farmers and our ag economy save consumers money, and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.”

Joining the congresswoman in signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Sam Graves (R-MO), Don Bacon (R-NE), Tom Emmer (R-MN), and Collin Peterson (D-MN). Reps. Noem and Peterson lead the bipartisan Biofuels Caucus.

Specifically, the lawmakers – who referred to themselves as “representatives of our country’s strongest farming communities” – encouraged the EPA to consider “reducing regulations, like those that prohibit the year-round sale of E15.”

“This regulatory change would increase consumption of biofuels while also lowering RIN prices, which eases implementation of the RFS and provide consumers with another choice at the pump,” they wrote, referring to a Renewable Identification Number (RIN), which the U.S. Energy Department says are attached to the physical gallon of renewable fuel as it is transferred to a fuel blender.

After blending, RINs are separated from the blended gallon and are used by blenders, refiners or importers as proof that they have sold renewable fuels to meet their mandated volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), the department says.

Additionally, Rep. Noem and her colleagues addressed the EPA’s 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) proposal under the RFS.

The EPA’s July 10 proposed rule states that biodiesel production can reach 2.8 billion gallons in 2019 and the congressmen asked that the final rule incorporate this conclusion, as well.

“The RFS promotes economic development and energy security for American farmers and families,” they wrote Wheeler. “The proposed rule for the 2019 RVO demonstrates a strong commitment to ethanol production and future growth for cellulosic and advanced biofuels.”

And while the increase to 2.43 billion gallons in biomass-based biodiesel for 2020 is a positive step, they wrote, “these commitments and the integrity of the RFS are undermined if the EPA continues to abuse the hardship waiver authority for small refineries.”

The members said the EPA approved 48 retroactive RFS waivers for refineries for 2016 and 2017 obligations that ended up depleting some two billion gallons in the marketplace. They urged the agency “to put an end to these secret waivers” until a newly established process makes public the name of the refinery, the gallons waived, and other information.

“Additionally, accounting for any 2019 waived gallons in the final rule would help ensure biofuel production is not harmed by retroactive refinery exemptions,” according to the letter.

Rep. Noem, a leading ethanol advocate in Congress, supports upholding the RFS, according to her staff, and has “put immense pressure on the Trump administration to lift E15 restrictions and allow its use year-round.”

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