During energy emergencies, federal waivers and other regulatory relief can be used to accelerate restoration of affected energy systems. Temporarily halting enforcement of certain safety, environmental, and statutory requirements can help expedite restoration of affected energy systems and critical infrastructure services or increase energy supply in areas affected by shortages.
This Library describes federal regulatory relief actions the federal government may take to address energy emergencies. In addition to regulatory relief measures, the Waiver Library includes federal authorities, such as the Defense Production Act that may be used to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote the national defense.
DOE directly grants, concurs, and/or coordinates with other federal agencies on many of the actions described in this Library. This information is intended to assist the energy sector, including state, local, tribal, and territorial officials, in identifying appropriate federal regulatory assistance during disasters to aid in response and recovery efforts.
Please note the content on other government websites is managed by their respective agencies and not DOE.
ENERGY WAIVER LIBRARY AT A GLANCE
DOE is the Sector Risk Management Agency (SRMA) and the Sector-Specific Agency (SSA) for the energy sector.
DOE serves as the lead federal coordinating agency for Emergency Support Function (ESF) #12 – Energy under the National Response Framework. DOE also has authorities under the Federal Power Act to address electricity shortages and secure the grid.
As part of its role supporting energy sector preparedness and response, DOE grants, concurs, and coordinates with other federal agencies on many waivers and emergency actions.
DHS has the authority to waive Jones Act requirements that otherwise ensure that only coastwise-qualified vessels (U.S.-flag) provide transport between U.S. ports, coastlines, states, and territories. This waiver has been used in recent years to address fuel shortages caused by natural disasters and facilitate the transport of petroleum products to affected regions.
Through FEMA, DHS is also responsible for providing Government-wide coordination and guidance for use of the Defense Production Act authorities.
Under the National Response Framework, DOT is the primary federal agency for the ESF #1 - Transportation. For an overview of all DOT agencies and fact sheets, visit the DOT Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Information webpage.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Once the President, state governors, or the FMCSA Field Administrator has declared an emergency, certain federal transportation safety regulations related to interstate commerce can be suspended. These regulations include the Hours of Service (HOS) requirements that limit the number of hours a driver may drive within a certain period. FMCSA waivers are commonly used to help relieve fuel shortages within a multi-state region.
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
- PHMSA is charged with ensuring the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials through pipelines. In emergency circumstances, PHMSA may grant special permits that temporarily modify compliance with federal pipeline regulations for owners and operators.
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- The FAA regulates operational aspects of small, unmanned aircrafts, including drones, that can be waived after disasters for utilities and other organizations assisting with response.
The EPA is granted authority by the Clean Air Act to regulate and waive standards for transportation fuels, emissions from generators, and emissions at fuel distribution terminals. EPA is the lead federal coordinating agency for ESF #10 – Oil and Hazardous Materials Response.
By waiving certain fuel standards during emergency supply disruptions, the Federal Government can ensure that an adequate supply of fuel is available, especially for emergency operations in key critical infrastructure sectors. With the concurrence of DOE, EPA is authorized to issue fuel waivers under the Clean Air Act. Fuel waivers are contingent upon the fuel disruption being temporary, extreme, and unusual, and applying to the smallest geographic area necessary. For more information on fuel waivers, please visit the EPA Fuel Waivers page and its FAQ page.
EPA also has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollutants from stationary and temporary power generators and emissions at fuel distribution terminals. In emergency circumstances, EPA may issue No Action Assurances (NAAs) temporarily stopping EPA enforcement of specific requirements to facilitate power and fuel supply to a region.
FERC is an independent agency that regulates interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity, as well as natural gas and hydropower projects. During emergencies, FERC has the authority to prioritize certain shipments on interstate product pipelines to address fuel shortages.
The IRS collects federal tax on all fuel used for highway motor vehicles. During emergency events, the IRS may grant waivers to people selling and using dyed fuel for highway use in disaster areas. The IRS waivers allow off-road dyed diesel fuel to be used in on-road vehicles without tax penalty.
Federal Power Act Section 202(c)
Granting agency: DOE
Background: The U.S. Secretary of Energy has emergency authority to order temporary actions under the Federal Power Act Section 202(c) to address electric reliability. A 202(c) order can be directed to any entity that owns or operates electric power generation, transmission, or distribution facilities. In recent years, 202(c) requests have been primarily submitted by Independent System Operators (ISOs) and utilities.
While not a waiver, a 202(c) order supersedes normal regulatory requirements. The 202(c) order is issued infrequently, utilized only five times between 2017 and April 2021.
Potential precipitating emergencies qualifying for a 202(c) order include a sudden increase in customer demand, the inability to obtain adequate amounts of fuel to generate electricity, any regulatory actions that prohibit the use of certain electric power supply facilities, or extended periods of insufficient power supply. For example, under normal circumstances, three major power grids (“interconnections”) in the U.S. operate largely independently, with limited connections to transfer power between them. The 202(c) order can be used to allow temporary interconnections to address electricity reliability needs. 202(c) can also be used to allow individual generators to run at maximum output levels to alleviate electricity shortages during events.
- In September 2021, DOE issued a 202(c) emergency order to the California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAISO), authorizing specific electric generating units to operate at their maximum generation output levels to preserve the reliability of the bulk electric power system. At the time, extreme heat waves led to higher electricity demand. Drought limited hydropower generation, and wildfires and extreme heat threatened energy transmission and distribution system.
- On February 14, 2021, a 202(c) emergency order was issued to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) through February 19, 2021, to preserve the reliability of the bulk electric power system in response to shortages of electricity and electric generation during an extreme cold weather event. Given the record demand for electricity and insufficient generation, DOE authorized ERCOT to dispatch generating units as needed to maintain electric reliability, even when doing so exceeded federal emissions permitting levels.
- In August 2020, in the wake of Hurricane Laura, an electric utility in Houston, Texas, was authorized via 202(c) to temporarily connect to a neighboring system at transmission and distribution levels to assist in electricity restoration. One utility operates within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), while the other operates within ERCOT. The interconnection was made via an existing permanent 138-kV tie-line in Texas.
Other uses of DOE’s Federal Power Act emergency authority can be found here.
Point of contact: All questions related to FPA section 202(c) should be sent via email to AskCR@hq.doe.gov. Requests for the Secretary to use this emergency authority should be directed to the 24/7 DOE Watch Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-586-8100.
No Action Assurances for Generator-Related Emissions Regulations
Granting agency: EPA
Background: While not a formal waiver, an NAA letter may be granted by EPA during emergency circumstances to lift regulations on emissions related to permanent and temporary power generation. Among other functions, these regulations allow generators to run beyond limits otherwise imposed by the Clean Air Act to ensure quick restoration of lost electrical service and to ensure sufficient power for affected communities.
A variety of stakeholders may request an NAA. Within the past few years, NAAs have been requested by states, utilities, and private companies.
- February 14, 2020, EPA announced it would exercise enforcement discretion for some electric power generating units at Puerto Rico facilities in response to the earthquakes that began in January 2020. The earthquake and its aftershocks damaged the power grid. The NAA allowed Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to operate specific oil, coal, and natural gas-fired generating units beyond usual environmental limits to provide power and facilitate power restoration. In response to the earthquakes, EPA also issued NAA letters to specific companies relying on emergency generators to continue critical functions. One letter was issued for pharmaceutical manufacturers whose grid-supplied electric supply was disrupted by the earthquakes. Given the criticality of the company’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA announced that it would not enforce violations of engine operating hour limits typically in place to minimize emissions for the company’s emergency generators.
- NAAs issued during Hurricane Irma in 2017 illustrate the wide variety of NAAs EPA is capable of issuing. EPA issued a blanket NAA allowing all Florida power facilities to maintain electricity supply to customers and facilities. It issued NAAs for three Tampa power plants for compliance with air permit conditions to ensure an adequate supply of electric power. Another NAA allowed the import of 255 power generators to be donated for use in impacted communities. A final generation-related NAA allowed emergency and backup electric generating units in Monroe County, Florida, to operate without meeting all pollution controls to facilitate electric supply.
Point of contact: Questions about EPA’s NAA letters can be directed to the EPA Emergency Operations Center, staffed 24/7/365, at either 202-564-3850 or email@example.com.
Defense Production Act
Lead agency: DHS (FEMA)
FEMA is responsible for providing Government-wide coordination and guidance for use of the DPA authorities. The President can invoke Defense Production Act (DPA) authorities. DPA powers are more frequently used following delegation to certain federal departments and agencies such as DOE. Through such delegation, the Secretary of Energy can directly exercise DPA authorities with respect to all forms of energy, such as production, conservation, use, control, and distribution of energy supplies.
Background: The DPA confers broad authority to mobilize domestic industry to support national defense. Under section 101 of the DPA, the federal government may require the acceptance and prioritization of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to address national defense needs. DPA authorities can also be used to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense.
For example, within the energy sector, the DPA can be used to prioritize contracts for components and equipment used in energy delivery, such as power poles and transformers. For additional information on DPA uses in energy, see the “Defense Production Act Authorities and U.S. Domestic Energy Supplies” CRS report.
- In June 2022, the President issued determinations under section 303 of the DPA, which gave DOE the authority to use the DPA to rapidly expand American manufacturing of five technologies: critical grid infrastructure like transformers, solar panels, heat pumps, insulation, and equipment for making and using clean electricity-generated fuels. The DPA announcement accelerates domestic clean energy manufacturing and addresses energy supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other world events.
Point of contact: Please contact AskCR@hq.doe.gov with any questions about the Defense Production Act.
Jones Act for Maritime Commerce
Granting agency: DHS
Background: The Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act, prohibits the shipment of goods between U.S. ports on vessels that are not “Jones Act compliant”—built in the United States, owned by U.S. companies, crewed by U.S. citizens, and operating under the U.S. flag. However, in emergency situations, the transport of energy products and other resources between U.S. ports can exceed the capacity of the Jones Act-compliant fleet. Under such circumstances, the DHS in consultation with the DOE, may waive Jones Act requirements to allow foreign vessels and U.S.-flag vessels that are not Jones Act-compliant to transport goods between U.S. ports. Prior to 2021, waivers could be granted broadly allowing any company to move specific energy products between specific regions, but recent changes to the law have effectively limited waivers to be granted to individual companies for the movement of specific cargos.
Jones Act waivers have been granted to address fuel shortages by facilitating the transport of petroleum products into regions experiencing shortages. Jones Act waivers are especially useful when normal supply chains have been disrupted (for example, during the outage of a major product pipeline). They have also been used to help facilitate the drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), transport an oil rig from the Gulf Coast to Alaska, and assist with the cleanup of major offshore oil spills.
Jones Act waivers are granted by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. They are requested via two methods:
- Waiver requests from the U.S. Secretary of Defense in the interest of national security are granted automatically.
- Waiver requests made to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are evaluated and are granted if there are no Jones Act-compliant vessels available for the required transportation and if the request is in the interest of national security. DOE monitors energy supply needs and advises CBP on Jones Act waiver requests during periods of actual or imminent energy shortages.
- In May 2021, the Secretary of Homeland Security approved two targeted Jones Act waivers (1, 2) in response to fuel supply constraints after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack that led to a pipeline shutdown. The waivers were granted to individual companies that requested to move oil products between the Gulf Coast and East Coast ports.
- In September 2017, two Jones Act waivers were granted in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The first waiver was in response to disruptions to the midstream and downstream oil supply chain in the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Harvey and to address potential fuel shortages in locations along Hurricane Irma’s predicted path. The second waiver extended the timeline of the initial waiver and expanded jurisdictions to transport petroleum products from 11 states to six affected states and Puerto Rico.
Point of contact: Please contact JonesActWaiverRequest@cbp.dhs.gov for any questions and to request to waive. The request should include the reason, justification, and information about the cargo, shipping, and delivery dates, and other information listed on the CBP Jones Act Waiver Request website. This waiver request is typically performed by private companies.
Consider sharing any known waiver requests that implicate energy supply needs or shortages with firstname.lastname@example.org to facilitate requests in a timely manner.
Pipeline Emergency Special Permits
Granting agency: DOT-PHMSA
Background: During an incident, PHMSA can issue an emergency special permit to temporarily modify compliance with federal pipeline regulations for owners or operators. PHMSA may issue these permits if they are in the public interest, are consistent with pipeline safety, and are necessary to address an actual or impending emergency. Qualifying emergency events include significant fuel supply disruptions and natural or manmade disasters. Events may be local, regional, or national in scope.
Applicants for these emergency special permits must specify the regulations from which the applicant seeks relief and indicate how operating the pipeline under the permit would be in the public interest (for example, ensuring continuity of service or service restoration).
- PHMSA issued an Emergency Special Permit after Hurricane Sandy in September 2012 to waive compliance from certain hazardous liquids requirements at two terminals in New Jersey. The waiver allowed the terminal operator to operate facilities manually with personnel that was otherwise not qualified while under the direction of qualified personnel. The manpower increase allowed terminals to increase the output of product to near normal levels despite the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.
Point of contact: Questions and requests for emergency special permits should be directed to PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety at (202) 366-4595 or email@example.com. The PHMSA emergency special permit website lists information that should be included in each request, such as an explanation of the actual or impending emergency, specific reasons the special permit is necessary, and a statement indicating whether and how operating the pipeline under an emergency special permit is in the public interest.
Consider sharing any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) (Driver Hours of Service)
Granting agency: DOT-FMCSA
Background: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers of commercial vehicles engaged in interstate commerce meet certain requirements for driver qualifications, vehicle parts and accessories required for safe operation, frequency of vehicle inspection and maintenance procedures, and hours driven before a mandatory break. FMCSR waivers are commonly issued to facilitate the movement of fuels by truck in response to natural disasters and fuel shortages caused by prolonged supply chain disruptions, cold weather, or other events. FMCSR waivers may also be used to expedite the movement of utility repair crews and other resources across state borders to facilitate power restoration.
FMCSA may waive FMCSR once the President, the state or territory’s governor, or the FMCSA Field Administrator for the area in which the event has occurred declares an emergency. A regional FMCSR waiver is most declared for a group of states, although a waiver can also be declared for the entire country, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FMCSA typically waives multiple motor carrier safety regulations at once (referred to as 49 CFR Parts 390-399), although its Hours of Service (HOS) waivers are perhaps the most directly relevant to addressing fuel supply issues. FMCSR HOS requirements apply to interstate commerce and refer to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty, including driving time and the number and length of rest periods.
These requirements may be waived during emergencies to allow drivers to respond more quickly to events and assist for extended periods before resting. The waivers apply only to drivers who provide direct assistance to the emergency, and drivers are exempt from the regulations in all states along their route to the emergency, even if the intermediate states have not declared an emergency or are affected by it.
FMCSR waivers do not exempt drivers from requirements relating to commercial driver’s licenses, drug and alcohol requirements, hazardous materials, size and weight, state and federal registration, and tax requirements. However, some of these requirements may be waived by individual states in state-level waivers. For example, individual states can waive HOS requirements for intrastate transportation supporting response effort, separate from the FMCSR waivers applying to interstate travel. Such state-granted HOS waivers are common, especially in response to summer and winter storms.
See the NASEO Guidance for States on Petroleum Shortage Response Planning website for a FMCSA waiver request template. NASEO’s Guidance for States on Relief from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in an Energy Emergency report (2018) may also be of use in understanding and requesting these waivers.
- In January and February 2022, FMCSA issued a Regional Emergency Declaration and associated regulatory relief from HOS requirements to 41 states and the District of Columbia for the transportation of heating fuel, including propane, natural gas, and heating oil. Winter storms and high demand had resulted in decreased availability of heating fuel across much of the U.S.
- In May and June 2021, FMCSA issued waivers for 19 states and the District of Columbia in response to fuel disruptions caused by the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and pipeline shutdown. The waiver applied to the transportation of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products.
- In February 2021, drivers in 33 states and the District of Columbia were granted an exemption from most HOS requirements due to infrastructure damage from severe winter storms and shortages of heating and other fuels. The waiver applied only to commercial motor vehicle operators providing direct assistance to the emergency relief effort, such as transporting heating fuels and gasoline.
Point of contact: The FMCSA emergency webpage lists all federal and state-granted waivers currently in effect. FMCSA can be contacted at (877) 831-2250 or FMCSADeclaration@dot.gov about FMCSA regulations during a declared disaster. Contact information for specific FMCSA service centers can be found on the FMCSA website.
Emissions Regulations at Distribution Terminals
Granting agency: EPA
Background: While not a formal waiver, a NAA Letter may be granted by EPA to temporarily pause enforcement of regulations that minimize air pollution at fuel distribution terminals. There are three major categories of regulations for which EPA may issue NAAs.
- Vapor recovery regulations: Vapor recovery equipment is used during fuel loading and unloading at terminals and truck loading racks to minimize emissions. During an emergency, vapor recovery devices may become damaged during power outages, and/or fuel shortages may necessitate the use of fuel terminals that are not outfitted with vapor recovery systems. In these circumstances, EPA may issue an NAA to allow the loading and unloading of fuel without the use of vapor recovery devices.
- Tank roof landing emissions: The EPA regulates that floating roof storage tanks need to maintain a certain amount of fuel in the tank to minimize emissions. These requirements may be lifted during a fuel shortage to allow the residual gasoline left in storage tanks to be used up and distributed to customers.
- Tanker truck tightness requirements: EPA requires the vapor tightness of gasoline tank trucks be tested periodically to minimize emissions during fuel loading and unloading. Terminals must keep documentation of trucks’ vapor tightness at the facility and may only load gasoline into tank trucks with documentation. During an emergency, EPA may issue an NAA to facilitate the distribution of fuel by allowing trucks to load at terminals even if they have not been registered with the terminal as having completed the tank tightness testing.
- Vapor recovery regulations: EPA issued an NAA in October 2018 to allow the loading and unloading of fuel at fuel distribution terminals in Florida without functioning vapor recovery equipment. Operational issues during Hurricane Michael damaged some existing vapor recovery equipment and some terminals without vapor recovery equipment needed to be used to address fuel shortages. Under the NAA, EPA chose not to enforce the vapor recovery regulations at bulk gasoline terminals, pipeline breakout stations, marine tank vessel loading operations, and gasoline loading racks for two weeks.
- Tank roof landing emissions: In September 2017, EPA issued an NAA letter for Texas stating that the agency would not enforce tank roof landing requirements. Prolonged refinery closures during Hurricane Harvey had created a gasoline shortage in Texas, and the NAA allowed the residual gasoline to be sold to help alleviate the shortage.
- Tanker truck tightness requirements: EPA issued another NAA for tank tightness testing in Florida in October 2018, in response to fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Michael. The evacuation process, damage to infrastructure, and flooding had caused fuel shortages. Some of the responding fuel distributors came from out of state or were outside of their normal distribution area. Because these trucks needed to load fuel at terminals that did not have documentation of the trucks’ tank tightness, the NAA allowed these trucks to load fuel to assist with the hurricane response.
Point of contact: Questions about EPA’s NAA letters can be directed to the EPA Emergency Operations Center, staffed 24/7/365, at 202-564-3850 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To improve situational awareness, please consider sharing any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov.
Emergency Prioritization of Pipeline Shipments
Granting agency: FERC
Background: Under the Interstate Commerce Act, FERC has the authority to order priority shipments on regulated interstate pipelines during emergency circumstances. Such prioritized shipments can be used to help alleviate shortages of a specific fuel type.
- During a February 2014 propane shortage, FERC ordered a major products pipeline to prioritize propane shipments for one week. This helped address the shortage by directing additional supply to the affected regions. The National Propane Gas Association initially requested the emergency authority.
Point of contact: Questions about FERC’s authority to prioritize fuel pipeline shipments during an emergency can be directed to email@example.com or 202-502-6088. Please share any FERC requests with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness.
Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) Requirements
Granting agency: EPA
Applicable fuels: Gasoline
Background: RFG is a blended gasoline that burns more cleanly than conventional gasoline and is required in some metropolitan regions to improve air quality and reduce smog. The RFG program is mandated in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. As of December 2020, EPA requires a 7.4 pounds per square inch (psi) Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) for sale in these RFG-covered areas.
RFG is primarily required in urban areas due to high smog content, and as of May 2022, it is used in 17 states and the District of Columbia and accounts for approximately one-third of all gasoline sold in the United States. Volatility requirements are in effect June 1 through September 15 for fuel retailers and May 1 through September 15 for wholesalers (refineries, terminals, etc.) In addition to major metropolitan regions, RFG is also required statewide in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Please refer to EPA’s RFG webpage for a full list of RFG covered areas.
During existing or potential gasoline shortages, EPA may waive RFG requirements to expand available gasoline supplies. RFG waivers usually allow regulated parties to produce, sell, or distribute conventional gasoline instead of RFG in areas where RFG is normally required. Waivers are typically prompted by natural disasters or other events that cause or are anticipated to cause fuel supply chain disruptions but can also be used during periods of particularly high or low gasoline demand. RFG requirements are usually waived as part of a broader waiver of low-volatility gasoline requirements, often with a specific section of the RVP waiver dedicated to RFG. Waivers also often lift the prohibition on combining or co-mingling RFG with conventional gasoline, and reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending (RBOB) with conventional blendstock for gasoline blending (CBOB).
RFG waivers are typically requested by state or territory governors or on their behalf (often through the state environmental protection agency). EPA grants fuel waivers in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Energy and state representatives. Please see the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) Guidance for States on Petroleum Shortage Response Planning website for a template for requesting EPA fuel specification waivers.
- In May 2021, EPA waived RVP and RFG requirements for eleven states, the District of Columbia, and specific counties in Florida to address the fuel supply emergency caused by the Colonial Pipeline shut down, after a cyberattack. EPA issued three waivers during the event, first granting the initial waiver to three states and the District of Columbia, then expanding the number of states included in the waiver, and finally extending its duration. Under the waivers, summer CBOB, summer conventional gasoline, winter CBOB, winter conventional gasoline, winter RBOB, and winter RFG could be used in RFG-covered areas, so long as the fuel’s RVP did not exceed 13.5 psi. The waiver also allowed commingling of RBOB and CBOB, and RFG and conventional gasoline, and waived certain RVP standards in areas that normally use conventional gasoline.
- In September 2017, an RFG waiver was granted for 38 East Coast states and the District of Columbia to address fuel supply emergencies caused by Hurricane Harvey and the temporary storm-related closure of over a dozen Gulf Coast refineries. The waiver allowed conventional winter gasoline (gasoline not manufactured to meet summer RVP specifications) to be sold and distributed in the affected RFG-covered areas. Additional RVP requirements were also temporarily lifted in this waiver.
Point of contact: Questions about EPA’s fuel programs can be directed to FuelsProgramSupport@epa.gov or call 1-800-385-6164 between 9 AM and 5 PM ET Monday through Friday.
During an emergency, questions can be directed to the EPA Emergency Operations Center, staffed 24/7/365, at 202-564-3850 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to official coordination with the EPA, consider sharing any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness, particularly given DOE’s role in assessing fuel supply and sharing that information with the EPA.
Gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) Regulations
Granting agency: EPA
Applicable fuels: Gasoline
Background: EPA regulates the RVP (a measure of volatility) of gasoline during summer months to reduce evaporative emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone. Federal RVP standards require the sale of low-volatility summer gasoline at retail gasoline stations from June 1 through September 15 (refiners and product terminals are subject to federal low-volatility summer gasoline regulations beginning May 1.) During these summer months, EPA requires gasoline to meet a maximum per-gallon RVP limit of 9.0 psi. For comparison, winter gasoline volatility varies by state and region according to state-level regulations but may reach as high as 15 psi RVP in parts of the country to encourage ignition on cold days.
Certain locations are required to meet even more stringent requirements, including:
- Areas required to sell RFG, which has a required RVP of 7.4 psi (see above).
- Select urban areas subject to a federal standard of 7.8 psi.
- California, which sells California RFG as required by state law.
- Regions in which the EPA has approved state fuel rules that require an RVP of less than 9.0 psi.
- Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories, which are exempt from federal volatility regulations.
EPA provides a 1.0 psi RVP allowance for gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol unless the state has adopted an alternate RVP standard or uses RFG.
Please see EPA’s Gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure website for additional information on the fuel requirements above.
During emergency circumstances, EPA may waive summer gasoline requirements, allowing regulated parties additional flexibility to acquire and sell fuel. These waivers are typically requested by state or territory governors or on their behalf (often through the state environmental protection agency). EPA grants fuel waivers in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Energy and state representatives.
RVP waivers allow higher-RVP fuel to be sold in the affected region, usually to increase supply. RVP waivers may also include waivers of RFG requirements in areas where RFG is required.
RVP waivers may be granted in two general circumstances:
- Most commonly, an RVP waiver is issued to address a shortage or anticipated shortage of gasoline in a region subject to summer RVP limits. The event precipitating the shortage can be a spike in demand for fuel (for example, a hurricane evacuation) or a disruption to the fuel supply chain, including fuel production, transportation, or distribution infrastructure. In these cases, an RVP waiver allowing the sale of higher-RVP gasoline may expand the fuel supply in the affected region.
- In rare cases, an RVP waiver may be used to address an oversupply of winter-grade gasoline heading into the spring transition to summer-grade gasoline, as was the case in Spring 2020 when fuel use plummeted during COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns.
An overview and list of RVP requirements are available on EPA’s Gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure website. See the NASEO Petroleum Shortage Response Planning website for a template for requesting EPA fuel specification waivers.
State fuel standards and fuel waivers
States also commonly adopt into law the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) fuels standards, which provide additional guidance on seasonal fuel volatility beyond federal standards. ASTM standards recommend month-to-month which vapor pressure classes of fuel should be used in each region of the country. During an emergency that occurs outside the federally regulated summer months, these RVP standards are waived at the state level.
For example, in Wisconsin, high-RVP gasoline of 15 psi cannot be sold after April 1, at which time 13.5-psi gasoline is sold. 13.5-psi RVP gasoline is in effect until May 1, when the stricter EPA regulations for vapor pressure begin to apply to stakeholders. A fuel shortage in Wisconsin in April would prompt a state waiver for the month of April, followed by an EPA waiver beginning in May if needed.
Examples of past use:
- In August and September 2021, EPA waived RVP requirements in Louisiana and Mississippi in response to fuel disruptions caused by Hurricane Ida. The waiver allowed regulated parties to produce, sell, and distribute winter gasoline with an RVP of no more than 11.5 psi in Louisiana and Mississippi.
- In March 2020, to address fuel oversupply at the beginning of the summer gasoline season, EPA issued a nationwide waiver of RVP requirements to facilitate the turnover of storage tanks from winter to summer gasoline. At the time, there was an oversupply of winter-grade gasoline due to lower consumption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and terminals had significant stores of winter fuel, preventing them from loading summer-grade fuel into the tanks and leading to a potential shortage of summer-grade gasoline. The waiver temporarily lifted the requirement to sell summer gasoline, as well as the prohibition from combining RBOB gasoline with any other gasoline, blendstock, or oxygenate. The waiver applied to terminals, distributors, retailers, and other stakeholders involved in selling gasoline but did not allow refineries to produce winter gasoline after May 1.
Point of contact: Questions about EPA’s fuel programs can be directed to FuelsProgramSupport@epa.gov, or call 1-800-385-6164 between 9 AM and 5 PM ET Monday through Friday.
Considerations: please share any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness, particularly given DOE’s role in assessing fuel supply and sharing that information with EPA.
Red Dye Diesel Regulations
Granting agency: IRS
Applicable fuels: Diesel
Background: Undyed diesel fuel used in on-road vehicles is subject to a federal tax of 24.4 cents per gallon. Diesel fuel used in off-road vehicles and equipment (such as tractors, heavy construction equipment, and generators) is required to be dyed red to signal that it is not subject to this tax. Typically, if dyed diesel fuel is used in on-road vehicles, the IRS requires that it be reported, and tax paid accordingly.
In extreme circumstances, such as fuel shortages caused by natural disasters and other supply chain disruptions, the IRS can choose to not impose a penalty when dyed diesel fuel is used in highway vehicles during these fuel emergencies. This can expand the supply of diesel fuel in a region available for use by emergency responders and other users.
EPA previously played a role in granting red die diesel waivers, although only IRS has been involved since 2021.
- After the May 2021 Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, the IRS announced it would not impose a penalty when dyed diesel fuel was sold for use or used on highways in twelve states and the District of Columbia. The waiver was issued to address supply chain disruptions caused by the event.
- In August 2019, the IRS announced it would not impose the tax penalty for dyed diesel fuel sold for use or used on highways in Florida due to supply interruptions caused by Hurricane Dorian. The IRS waiver remained in effect for two weeks.
Point of contact: The IRS Excise Hotline is 866-699-4096 and is available Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 6 PM ET for questions about the IRS waiver.
In addition to official coordination with IRS, consider sharing waiver requests with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness.
E15 RVP Regulations for Gasoline
Granting agency: EPA
Applicable fuels: Gasoline
EPA requires the use of low volatility gasoline during summer months (June 1 to September 15) to limit ozone pollution. Because blending ethanol into gasoline increases the fuel’s RVP, EPA provides an additional 1.0-psi RVP allowance for gasoline containing 10% ethanol (“E10 gasoline”). However, gasoline with a 10.5% to 15% ethanol blend (“E15 gasoline”) is not eligible for this allowance, effectively prohibiting E15’s use during the summer months. E15 can be sold year-round in parts of the country that have reformulated gasoline requirements.
Under emergency circumstances, EPA can extend the 1.0-psi RVP waiver that currently applies to E10 gasoline to E15, enabling E15 sales throughout the summer driving season. This action only extends the 1.0-psi waiver to E15 in parts of the country where it already exists for E10. Allowing summertime E15 sales in these areas can potentially expand the gasoline supply if these areas also have retail stations equipped to store and dispense E15.
- Previous Approvals: In April 2022, EPA issued an emergency fuel waiver extending the 1.0-psi RVP allowance to E15 gasoline to allow the fuel to be sold during the summer driving season. The waiver was issued in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and associated disruptions in global petroleum markets. As of spring 2022, E15 is available at approximately 2,300 retail stations in 30 states.
Point of contact: Questions about EPA’s fuel programs can be directed to FuelsProgramSupport@epa.gov, or call 1-800-385-6164 between 9 AM and 5 PM ET Monday through Friday.
Considerations: Please share any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness, particularly given DOE’s role in assessing fuel supply and sharing that information with EPA.
Hazardous Materials Regulations for Oil and Hazardous Materials Incidents
Granting agency: DOT-PHMSA
Background: PHMSA has the authority to waive compliance with hazardous materials regulations to facilitate the safe movement of hazardous materials into, from, and within an area of a major disaster or emergency. Hazardous materials incidents addressed in the waiver include incidents related to oil. The waiver is commonly granted in response to natural disasters that pose a risk of hazardous materials spills, including earthquakes and hurricanes.
- In September 2020, PHMSA granted a waiver of the hazardous materials regulations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from oil and hazardous materials incidents related to Hurricane Sally. The waiver applied to disaster and emergency areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama (including the Poarch Band of Creek Indians), and Florida.
- In August 2020, PHMSA issued a waiver to Hurricanes Laura and Marco's emergency and disaster areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The waiver was granted to allow EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard to safely remove, transport, and dispose of hazardous materials, including oil, during their response efforts.
- The PHMSA waiver can also be used to transport essential fuel (in addition to responding to oil-related incidents), as in the Hazardous Materials Regulation waiver issued for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 to facilitate the transport of essential fuel. The waiver was deemed necessary for the safe transportation of fuel and temporarily lifted hazardous materials training, testing, and certification requirements for drivers transporting fuel. The waiver also required additional safety measures, such as that the transport of fuel be accompanied by a law enforcement or military escort.
Point of contact: PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Information Center is available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm ET, to answer questions on hazardous materials regulations, transportation, and rulemaking. The Hazardous Material Information Center can be reached at 1-800-467-4922, 202-366-4488, or email@example.com.
Please consider sharing any waiver requests or implementations with EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov to improve situational awareness.
Waivers of Drone Regulations Granting agency: DOT Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Background: The FAA regulates operational aspects of small, unmanned aircrafts, including drones, under its Part 107 regulation. In emergency situations, the FAA can waive some of these regulations. Organizations responding to disasters, including utilities, may be eligible for expedited waivers through the Special Governmental Interest process. Utilities can use drones to safely inspect equipment and assess damages in the aftermath of a disaster. Waivers of drone regulations may expedite critical infrastructure repairs and service restoration. Operators applying for waivers must already be certified under the existing Part 107 regulation.
Point of contact: FAA’s website describes the process for applying for waivers through the Special Government Interest process.
Please submit any questions about energy emergency response to CESER at EnergyResponseCenter@hq.doe.gov or call 202-586-2264. For after-hours energy sector emergencies, please contact the DOE Emergency Operations Center at 202-586-8100.