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E15 expansion: A look at the 3 changes on state, federal level looking to make the fuel available year round

From President Joe Biden announcing a push for EPA waivers to Iowa lawmakers passing a new bill, it's been a busy month for E-15.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Typically the summer months bring a pause on the sale of E15 gasoline.

Under the Clean Air Act, the fuel cannot be sold between June 1 and Sept. 15.

However, this year, President Joe Biden announced he would request the Environmental Protection Agency issue emergency waivers to allow the fuel, which has up to 15% ethanol, to be sold year round. That move would allow the expanded sales for one year. 

The move came as a way to alleviate the US's reliance on foreign fuel production by turning to homegrown ethanol production. The EPA ultimately granted those waivers on April 29.

This week, Iowa lawmakers approved a measure that would require gas stations to sell E15 by 2026. The bill provides exemptions for some stations that meet certain criteria: stations built prior to 2023 that sell fewer than 300,000 gallons of fuel per year and don't have plans to replace storage tanks would have the option to opt-out. 

Stations who chose to upgrade their systems to include E15 would have the ability to apply for state grants to help cover a portion of the costs. 

"You can get a grant from the state called the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program to cover that cost anywhere from 70% to 90% of it depending on which program you qualify for," said Iowa Renewable Fuels Executive Director Monte Shaw. 

The same week, Gov. Kim Reynolds led bipartisan group of governors in penning a letter to the EPA, asking for E15 to be available 365 days a year. A provision under the Clean Energy Act provides governors this option. 

"The EPA does have to promulgate a rule based on the governors' request," Shaw said. "But the Clean Air Act says that the EPA shall do it. So there's really no discretion."

Shaw adds Iowa has anywhere from 250 to 275 stations offering E15 currently: that's out of roughly 2,200 stations.