US Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to create a renewable fuel infrastructure grant program and streamline regulatory requirements to help fuel retailers sell higher blends of ethanol.
The Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act of 2021 would authorize $500 million over 5 years for infrastructure grants for fuel retailers. Under the program, eligible entities may use the funds to:
Distribute to private or public entities for costs related to incentivizing deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure;
Convert existing pump infrastructure to deliver ethanol blends greater than 10% and biodiesel blends greater than 20%; and
Install fuel pumps and related infrastructure dedicated to the distribution of higher ethanol blends, including E15 and E85, and higher biodiesel blends up to B100 at fueling locations.
The bill also directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a proposed rule to repeal E15 labeling requirements warning drivers about E15’s potential impact on cars, which may confuse and deter drivers from using E15, a blend of gasoline with 15% ethanol.
The bill would also direct the EPA Administrator to finalize provisions from the same proposed rule to allow certain existing Underground Storage Tanks (UST) to store higher blends of ethanol.
In 2015 and 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorized and implemented one-time infrastructure grant programs to increase the availability of renewable fuels, known as the Biofuel Infrastructure Program (BIP) and the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), respectively.
Current EPA regulations require all gas pumps that dispense E15 to display a warning label noting that it may be unsafe for use in certain vehicles, though 95% of all vehicles are approved for E15 and more than 18 billion miles have already been driven on the fuel.
Current UST regulations require retailers who cannot find installation documentation for their tanks or piping to prove that the equipment is safe for higher blends of ethanol. Because this often cannot be done without breaking concrete to check the UST, some compatible retailers choose to not offer E15.
This legislation would allow retailers who cannot find installation documentation for their UST to store higher blends of ethanol if they use certain advanced spill monitoring or if the tank is double-walled.