The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday dismissed challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of a partial waiver for E15 allowing it to be used in light-duty vehicles manufactured beginning in 2001. The court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring action against the EPA for granting a partial waiver that would prohibit the use of E15 in some model year vehicles but not others.
The EPA had approved the partial waiver for E15 in January 2011 and finalized the other steps necessary for the ethanol industry to begin selling E15 to consumers this summer. Grocery, auto and petroleum industry associations filed suit against the agency in November 2010, saying that rules allowing for increased used of corn-based ethanol in auto fuel would push up the price of food and gasoline and harm engines, reported Bloomberg.
The court ruled the groups couldn’t show they had suffered specific harm as a result of the EPA’s decisions.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and groups representing companies including Tyson Foods Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co. challenged two EPA decisions that allowed the introduction E15, a gasoline blended with ethanol. The EPA in 2010 granted a request from ethanol producers to increase concentrations of the corn-based fuel in gasoline to as much as 15% from 10% for vehicles made for the model year 2007 and later. E15 may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today, according to a three-year study conducted by the auto and oil industries cited by API. Automobile manufacturers have told Congress that vehicle warranties will not cover damage due to E15.
Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented from the three- judge panel’s decision, saying the groups’ standing to sue was established by the prospect of rising costs for their members.
“The court’s split decision to dismiss the petition on procedural grounds instead of the merits of the case is disappointing and unfortunate for consumers,” GMA said in a statement. “The decision clears the way for the continuation of misguided food–to-fuel policies at a time when Americans can least afford it. The increased market demand for corn created by the Renewable Fuels Standard [RFS] is diverting nearly 40% of the corn crop away from livestock feed and food production and raising food costs for consumers. Increasing the ethanol blend will exacerbate these effects. What’s more, the decision comes in the midst of the most devastating drought the U.S. has experienced in the last 50 years, increasing demand for a crop that is already in extremely short supply. While GMA member companies are committed to delivering safe, nutritious food to consumers at affordable prices, consumers will feel the effects of these higher input costs at retail.”
API said it was “disappointed by a divided decision.” Bob Greco, API downstream group director, said, “Today’s court decision is a big loss for consumers, for safety, and for our environment. EPA approved E15 before vehicle testing was complete, and we now know that the fuel may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today. Moreover, EPA approved E15 even though government research showed potential infrastructure concerns to our nation’s gas stations that could lead to serious safety and environmental problems. EPA’s decision was premature and irresponsible, and consumers could bear the burden.” Half of all retail station equipment in the country is incompatible with E15, according to an analysis of government and independent research conducted for API (click here to read the full report).
Greco said the court, based on a tenuous legal justification, declined to make a decision on the merits of the case. “It is astounding that the court does not accept that refiners, who must comply with the ethanol mandate, have standing to bring this case,” he said. The case is Grocery Manufacturers Association v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 10-1380, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (CSP Daily News: www.cspnet.com)