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Iowa lawmakers have passed a bill to require E-15 at many gas stations

E-15 pumps in Des Moines
Michael Leland
A bill that would require Iowa gas stations to sell fuel with higher blends of ethanol passed the legislature Tuesday.

The Iowa Legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk Tuesday with bipartisan support that would require many Iowa gas stations to sell fuel with higher blends of ethanol.

The state-level E-15 mandate is one of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priorities this year. She said Tuesday morning shortly before the bill passed that she is excited to see movement on this bill as lawmakers aim to end the legislative session.

“It’s about compromise,” Reynolds said. “It’s about finding language that people feel comfortable with and getting it across the finish line.”

The bill passed the Senate with abipartisan vote of 42 to 3, and it passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 81 to 13.

The governor’s lobbyist, Molly Severn, told lawmakers Monday that the bill will help reinforce Iowa’s economy.

“This bill is the result of significant compromise from everyone along the fuel supply chain, from farmers to fuel retailers,” Severn said. “If we’re to remain the national leader in agriculture and renewable fuel production, we must send a strong message against the constant uncertainty that we have faced from the federal government and the EPA.”

More than half of the corn grown in Iowa goes to ethanol production. PresidentJoe Biden recently announcedhe would allow the use of E-15 through this summer when it's typically not allowed, and Severn said Reynolds is working to make that change permanent.

Underthe bill in the Iowa Legislature, gas stations that open after Jan. 1, 2023, would have to sell E-15, gas blended with at least 15 percent ethanol, from at least half of their dispensers. Existing gas stations with compatible infrastructure would have to sell E-15 from at least one dispenser by 2026. If a gas station upgrades its underground infrastructure, it would have to offer E-15 from at least 50 percent of its dispensers.

The Iowa House first passed the bill in early February. That version included two different waivers gas stations could use to get out of the E-15 mandate. One would apply to stations that have specific underground infrastructure that’s old and incompatible with E-15. The other waiver would go to stations that get an inspection to certify it would cost more than a certain amount to upgrade their equipment.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee amended the bill Monday to add a third opportunity for gas stations to avoid the E-15 mandate. Gas stations that sell less than 300,000 gallons of gas per year would be able to get a waiver.

“We’re really trying to help out these small retailers here in the state knowing that these support a lot of our rural communities,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs. “And there’s a difference between a high-volume station having the capital to make investments…versus a small station that might not have as much capital.”

The final version of the bill would also give more financial assistance to small gas stations that want to upgrade their equipment to be able to sell E-15.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, voted against the bill.

“My concerns are about the mandate—the requirement that state government is going to tell business owners that they have to sell a particular product,” he said.

Bolkcom said it’s ironic that Republican leaders refuse to enact mandates for farmers to help improve water quality, but they’re willing to issue an E-15 mandate to gas stations.

Editor's note: This story was updated Tuesday, April 26 at 12:48 p.m. to reflect that the bill had passed the House and Senate.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter