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Bipartisan U.S. bill aims to expand sales of ethanol after court ruling

The bill is an attempt to boost demand for corn-based ethanol and inject certainty into a market that was rocked by the court ruling. The bill would extend a waiver that would allow year-round sales of a 15% ethanol fuel blend known as E15.

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Choices at the gas pump including ethanol or no ethanol gas are seen in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., Jan. 29, 2020. Brian Snyder / REUTERS
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NEW YORK — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday, July 14, introduced legislation that would increase access to gasoline with a higher ethanol blend, after a recent court decision knocked down a Trump-era rule that had allowed expanded sales of the fuel.

The bill is an attempt to boost demand for corn-based ethanol and inject certainty into a market that was rocked by the court ruling. The bill would extend a waiver that would allow year-round sales of a 15% ethanol fuel blend known as E15.

The Environmental Protection Agency extended a similar waiver in 2019. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in early July that the EPA exceeded its authority by lifting the summertime restrictions on the sale of E15.

Senators Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, led the group of lawmakers introducing the bill on Wednesday.

Separately, in the House of Representatives, Angie Craig, a Democrat who represents Minnesota, and Adrian Smith, a Republican who represents Nebraska, also introduced a bill this week that would ensure the EPA could grant waivers allowing year-round sales of the blend.

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"The recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling was a major blow to farmers and ethanol producers, and further highlighted the need to provide them with certainty," Fischer said in a statement.

The lawmakers also pushed the idea that higher ethanol fuel blends should be part of the United States' solution in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

"It's critical that we pass this bipartisan legislation to continue this progress and stay on the path to a greener future," said Klobuchar, adding that the United States must diversify its fuel supply to drive down emissions.

A slew of biofuel and corn producer groups applauded the legislation. Following the court ruling, the groups had vowed to work to ensure that E15 sales would continue.

"We will continue to work with our Congressional champions to see this legislation through, and fight to give Americans an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment by filling up on earth friendly fuel blends like E15,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor in a statement.

Fischer had previously introduced the legislation, known as the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, in 2017, before the EPA extended a waiver.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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