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In a letter sent last week to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson expressed concern that the agency's proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule will make it harder for retailers to sell higher level blends of ethanol.

Johnson wrote that he was particularly worried by EPA's interpretation of the "substantially similar" clause of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits the sale of any fuel or fuel additive that is "not substantially similar" to fuels or fuel additives used in the certification of new vehicles. According to the agency's current standards, the "substantially similar" specification is limited to fuel blends that are fifteen percent or less ethanol, which could potentially limit the use of higher level blends.

"While we do not necessarily disagree with EPA's interpretations that would allow for E15 year-round, we believe the statute clearly allows for higher ethanol blends as part of the substantially similar determination based on E10 certification fuel," said Johnson. "Indeed, higher ethanol blends only further reduce emissions and provide similar or better engine and vehicle performance."

Instead, Johnson urged the EPA to "consider the needed changes to facilitate and promote use of mid-level ethanol blends" and "clarify that the Clean Air Act's 'substantially similar' provisions for gasoline no longer require a cap on ethanol."

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