October 18, 2018 / 8:04 PM / a month ago

EPA chief says agency can expand ethanol sales without Congress

Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler speaks during an event hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump with workers on "Cutting the Red Tape, Unleashing Economic Freedom" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said on Thursday the agency has the authority to allow sales of higher-ethanol blends of gasoline year-round without an act of Congress, and hopes the oil industry will drop its threat of a lawsuit to stop the move.

“We do have the authority to move forward on E15,” Wheeler told reporters after an event with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in Washington. “And I hope the oil industry would join us in helping make (U.S. biofuel policy) function better for the American public, rather than taking it to court.”

President Donald Trump announced last week that he was directing the EPA to lift a summer ban on sales of so-called E15 to help farmers, a move cheered by the corn lobby but opposed by the oil industry, which threatened to sue to block it.

The oil industry is concerned that expanding sales of corn-based ethanol will cut into its share of the fuel market.

The Environmental Protection Agency prohibits summer sales of E15 in certain areas because of smog concerns.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler

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