Windy City Weighs Ethanol Ordinance


Feb 2, 2015

By Tom Doran

Chicago has a history of being proactive in moving toward environment-friendly fuel offerings and the city council will consider another step in that direction this year.

The council’s Committee on Finance passed an ordinance last month that would require filling stations within the city to provide an E15 blend fuel option. It is anticipated the ordinance will go to the full council this spring.

The effort began last March when Alderman Ed Burke reached out to the industry and worked with Growth Energy and its CEO, Tom Buis.

Finance committee members adopted an ordinance that requires all stations that sell more than 850,000 gallons annually to provide E15 as an option at the station.

Twenty-three of the council’s 50 members have signed on as sponsors of the ordinance.

“It’s not requiring customers to purchase it but it is requiring the retail station to make it available for the customer,” said Rodney Weinzierl, Illinois Corn Growers Association executive director.

“There are about 200 to 240 stations in the city of Chicago that would qualify. If stations have underground tanks that are not compatible they’re exempt from the ordinance.”

Farmers' Support

ICGA President Kenny Hartman and Vice President Jeff Jarboe attended hearings on the issue and submitted witness slips to testify. They were joined in submitting testimony by past ICGA Presidents Len Corzine and Garry Niemeyer. Other farmers also attended and submitted witness slips.

ICGA and other supporters delivered a petition with 7,673 signatures to the committee in support of the ordinance.

More than 20 representatives from the oil industry were on hand to testify against the plan.

As Weinzierl anticipated, the full council did not take up the issue at its Jan. 21 meeting “because it is now caught up in the mayoral election that is in February.

Media Battle

The proposal has drawn the media’s attention where supporters and opponents are wrestling for print space and air time.

“There has been over $1 million committed from the ethanol side of the industry just in dealing with the media and what’s going to be happening over the next few months,” Weinzierl said at the recent Illinois Farm Bureau-hosted agricultural legislative roundtable.

“It’s quite a big battle. It’s really shifted from the D.C. area into Chicago.”

In preparing for the possibility the ordinance is approved, the ethanol industry has committed $10 million to pay for retailers’ retrofit costs. The funding is available through the Prime the Pump program that pools industry resources to expand E15 and higher blends by offering grants to interested retailers.

“The Illinois Corn Marketing Board has committed $1 million also if stations want to move up and put in either E85 pumps or higher blend pumps and we have another program with the largest pump manufacturer that will cost share additional costs if stations want to do that,” Weinzierl said.

“So, there are a lot of resources going into this effort.

Chicago was the first city to ban leaded gas (1984) and also the first city in the nation to ban the methyl tertiary butyl ether additive (2000).

“So, this is not out of realm of the city moving forward in trying to do something,” he said.”

“Depending how that goes, there may be a runoff and that will pretty much determine the timeline on when that’s going to happen with this ordinance.

The mayoral election is Feb. 24 and the next city council meeting is March 18.

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