Andrew R. Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told participants of the American Boating Congress that his agency plans to issue at the end of this month a final rule that will allow year-round sale of E15 gasoline.
Wheeler also assured attendees that the final rule “is not the final discussion.” “We view this as an ongoing conversation and will continue to engage with you as we monitor the situation and E15 becomes more prevalent in the nation’s fuel sources,” Wheeler said.
E15, which is a 15 percent ethanol blended gasoline, has been controversial in the boating industry for more than a decade. It has been traced to engine damage and failure. The boating industry and other industries that use small engines have been unsuccessfully fighting against its proliferation in the nation’s fuel supply.
Wheeler said that E15 provides air-quality benefits, in addition to diversifying the fuel supply.
He said that he also approved the “approval pathways” for biofuels derived from sorghum. “EPA took a big step in June 2018 by registering biobutanol for the fuel supply,” Wheeler said. “We’re aware of your industry concerns that hurdles for butanol still exist, but we are working on this with a rule that will hopefully spur the development of biofuels by streamlining the approvals process.”
The agency is working to be able to make a six-month decision on whether proposed fuels will be able to gain permits in order to speed up the adoption process. Wheeler said the EPA has reduced its permit backlog by 34 percent. “We’re on track for our six-month goal,” he said.
The EPA has become involved in water infrastructure development that will impact not only the nation’s water supplies, but also boating. Wheeler said that his agency has approved loans in the last two years that total $2 billion for infrastructure projects. The agency will have three more rounds, including one for $12 billion that’s expected to create more than 180,000 jobs.
Wheeler said that using innovation through private partnerships, rather than “heavy-handed” government regulation, is key to addressing the infrastructure project, as well as environmental issues.
The EPA has been working with the state of Florida to stem toxic algal blooms. “We understand these hurt the boating industry, and this is an issue that is important to President Trump,” Wheeler said.
The Everglades Storage Reservation Act, he said, will reduce the “harmful discharges” from Lake Okeechobee that contribute to the blooms. “The president has called for $200 million for Everglades restoration work, and we’ve set up interagency cooperation with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to better respond to algae blooms,” Wheeler said. “Instead of using a hammer to hit farmers, we want to incentivize markets to address nutrient-loading in our waterways.”
Wheeler also said that EPA needs to address the image of the environment in the public’s mind. He said that, despite public polls saying the environment is “getting worse,” air quality has never been higher. “In less than a century we’ve also transformed our lakes, rivers and waterways from dumping grounds into areas that can be used for recreation and vacations,” he said. “We need to fix public perception.”