The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is easing several gasoline-related regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, EPA intends to provide additional flexibility to the marketplace to transition from winter-grade, high volatility gasoline to summer-grade low vapor pressure gasoline. Due to the steep fall-off in gasoline demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (earlier post), gasoline storage capacity is limited and more time is needed to transition the distribution system in order to come into compliance for the summer driving season. EPA will temporarily waive the summer low volatility requirements and blending limitations for gasoline.
Without a waiver of the summer gasoline requirements, parties upstream of retailers and wholesale purchasers would be required to stop selling the winter gasoline sitting in their storage tanks on 1 Ma 2020, which would prevent them from loading summer gasoline into the storage tanks, resulting in a shortage of gasoline.
By waiving the low volatility and blending limitations through 20 May 2020, EPA will ensure a steady supply of gasoline. EPA will continue to monitor the adequacy of gasoline supplies and, should conditions warrant, may modify or extend this waiver at a later date.
Second, EPA does not intend to unilaterally revisit or rescind any previously granted small refinery exemptions issued for prior compliance years.
As noted in the temporary policy on COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Assurance Program, issued yesterday, EPA is focused on protecting its employees and ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment from acute or imminent threats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, investigating and initiating enforcement actions against small refineries that were previously subject to an exemption is a low priority for the agency.
EPA intends to develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response to the Tenth Circuit’s decision in RFA v. EPA once appeals have been resolved and the court’s mandate has been issued.
Finally, in a forthcoming action, EPA intends to extend the RFS compliance date for small refineries to provide them with additional flexibility.