Oil, food groups file second round of E15 lawsuits

By Kris Bevill | March 15, 2011

The American Petroleum Institute, along with nine food and livestock groups, filed a lawsuit with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 11, challenging the U.S. EPA’s expanded approval for E15 use in vehicle models 2001 through 2006. The lawsuit is the second filed by the groups in response to the EPA’s E15 waiver approval. They also filed a lawsuit in November challenging the EPA’s initial approval of E15 for use in vehicles 2007 and newer.

“EPA’s second E15 waiver was based on just as shaky—if not shakier—legal and technical grounds than the first waiver decision,” said Bob Greco, director of downstream operations at API. “EPA’s waiver decisions are premature, lack statutory authority and put consumers at risk.”

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry is the largest domestic consumer of ethanol and does not oppose “responsible introduction” of increased amounts of biofuels, according to Greco. API claims that the nearly two years of U.S. DOE testing conducted on E15 was not thorough enough and that the tests that were conducted showed potential safety and performance problems with the blend. “This testing has not been completed and, until it is, EPA has no business pushing this potentially risky fuel mixture into American consumers’ gas tanks,” Greco said.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the American Frozen Food Institute, the American Meat Institute, the National Chicken Council, the National Council of Chain Restaurants of the National Retail Foundation, the National Meat Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation and the Snack Food Association joined API in filing both challenges to the E15 waiver approval. In November, the National Turkey Federation indicated its participation in the E15 lawsuit stems from a concern that increased ethanol blends could affect the availability of corn for the group’s members. Corn is the prominent ingredient in turkey feed, the group stated in a disclosure statement, and feed comprises 70 percent of the cost of raising turkeys. Therefore, the NTF has a vested interest in any regulation that could affect distribution and availability of corn, the group stated.

The March 11 lawsuit opposing E15 is the latest in a series of challenges posed against implementation of the fuel. Members of both the U.S. House and Senate proposed legislation in February to prevent the EPA from implementing E15. House amendments were left out of the two-week budget extension passed on March 2, but ethanol industry groups warned that the issue would likely return during long-term budget discussions.

In written testimony provided to the U.S. House agriculture committee on March 10, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the waiver to approve E15 for use in vehicles 2001 and newer would allow 150 million vehicles to use the fuel. By 2014, that number could grow by more than 30 million vehicles to represent 85 percent of U.S. fuel consumption. She stated that the agency is in the process of completing the final steps required before the fuel can enter the market, including registration and a final rule for an E15 label, and said she expects the agency to complete these actions within three months.