Auto, boating industry groups launch legal assault on EPA ethanol waiver

The groups battling approval of E-15 — the blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — filed suit Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

EPA’s decision to allow the higher blends in newer vehicles was a partial victory for the ethanol industry. But the trade groups that filed the lawsuit say EPA’s “partial waiver” that allowed the blends in newer vehicles has several flaws.

“While all members of the EPG have and continue to support the development and use of safe and sustainable alternative fuels, the action EPA has taken to permit E-15 to be sold as a legal fuel, even if limited only to certain products, will have adverse consequences for the environment and consumers. A partial waiver, by its nature, necessarily will result in the misfueling of products not designed or tested for E-15 use,” said Kris Kiser, an executive with the outdoor equipment group, speaking on behalf of the industry coalition.

The groups allege the Clean Air Act doesn’t allow a “partial waiver” that EPA granted, which enables ethanol blends above 10 percent only in the newer vehicles, and also have other complaints.

“E-15 has been shown to adversely affect engines in non-road products and later-model year vehicles, cause emission failures and increase air pollution due to misfueling.  Further, administrative records fail to demonstrate that even new model year motor vehicles (other than “flexible fuel vehicles”) would not be damaged and result in failures when run on E-15,” they said in a summary of their claims against EPA's decision.

The Renewable Fuels Association, which is an ethanol industry trade group, said in response to the lawsuit that EPA should have allowed even broader use of E-15.

“EPA could have avoided this kind of market confusion by following all the science to its logical conclusion and allowing the use of E-15 for all cars and light duty pickup trucks. The only way to meet the nation's energy, economic and environmental goals as put forth in the Renewable Fuels Standard is to increase ethanol consumption,” the group said.

“Allowing for the use of E-15 blends is a safe and appropriate step toward meeting these goals. The RFA will continue to press for the safe and effective use of higher level ethanol blends in both conventional as well as flexible fuel vehicles,” it adds.