The Trump administration is moving to allow year-round sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, a boon for Iowa and other farm states that have pushed for greater sales of the corn-based fuel.
The long-expected announcement is something of a reward to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman led a contentious but successful fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
At that time Grassley threatened to call for the resignation of the Environmental Protection Agency's chief, Scott Pruitt, if Pruitt did not work to fulfill the federal ethanol mandate. Pruitt later stepped down amid a host of ethics investigations.
A senior administration official said Monday that the EPA will publish a rule in coming days to allow high-ethanol blends as part of a package of proposed changes to the ethanol mandate.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump's announcement.
The EPA currently bans the high-ethanol blend, called E15, during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days, a claim ethanol industry advocates say is unfounded.
The senior administration official said the proposed rule intends to allow E15 sales next summer. Current regulations prevent retailers in much of the country from offering E15 from June 1 to September 15.
Lifting the summer ban is expected to be coupled with new restrictions on trading biofuel credits that underpin the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate.
The law sets out how much corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels refiners must blend into gasoline each year.
The Renewable Fuel Standard was intended to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and bolster the rural economy by requiring a steady increase in renewable fuels over time.
The mandate has not worked as intended, and production levels of renewable fuels, mostly ethanol, routinely fail to reach minimum thresholds set in law.
Some car makers have warned against high-ethanol blends, although EPA has approved use of E15 in all light-duty vehicles built since 2001.
The lawmakers called the approach "misguided" and said it would do nothing to protect refinery jobs and "could hurt millions of consumers whose vehicles and equipment are not compatible with higher-ethanol blended gasoline."
The letter was signed by 16 Republicans and four Democrats, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a key Trump ally.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, whose state includes several refineries, also signed the letter.
A spokeswoman for the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, said allowing E15 to be sold year-round would give consumers greater access to clean, low-cost, higher-octane fuel while expanding market access for ethanol producers.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)