The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Tuesday that, under emergency authority, it will lift a ban on summertime sales of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol (known as “E15”).

President Biden announced the E15 emergency decision at a POET ethanol blending facility in Iowa.

“With this waiver,” Biden said, “on June 1, you’re not going to show up at your local gas station and see a bag over the pump that has the cheapest gas; you’re going to be able to keep filling up with E15. It’s going to solve a problem. But it’s not going to solve all our problems.”

President Biden claimed that “Putin’s Price Hike” is the impetus for the emergency waiver, according to a White House fact sheet.

NCC President Mike Brown released the following statement in response to the announcement: “Further and artificial demand for corn created by this administration will likely increase the cost of corn and all food products dependent on corn and corn oil inputs. What it does at the gas pump we shall see… but at what expense to consumers in the grocery store who are already dealing with the highest inflation in 40 years. At the end of the day – ethanol manufacturers win and consumers lose.”

EPA restrictions prevent the sale of E15 from June 1 to September 15 in some parts of the U.S. because of its contribution to ozone pollution, or smog. All gasoline sold during that time, and most gasoline sold during the rest of the year, is blended with 10 percent ethanol (or “E10”), which is almost exclusively produced from corn. However, the agency is issuing a “national emergency waiver” to waive the restriction for the summer months.

The waiver will have a 20-day shelf life, but EPA is expected to continue to renew it for the duration of the summer months.

The EPA is using emergency authority because court precedent disallowed it from using its traditional authority under the Renewable Fuel Standard statute.

EPA in May 2019 also issued an E15 waiver for the summer months by conducting formal rulemaking. In that case, EPA applied the 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver that typically applies to only to E10 in the summer months  so that it would apply to E15 as well. The RVP waiver allowed the more evaporative E15 fuel blend to be used during the summer. NCC filed comments on that rule change, which can be found here.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in July 2021 struck down the E15 RVP waiver in a 3-0 decision. In response to the EPA’s promulgation of the E15 rule, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers sued the EPA, which brought the case up to the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit said that Congress did not intend for the law the EPA used to apply to blends higher than E10, thus the waiver has no grounds in statute.