WASHINGTON (Aug. 20, 2012)—The Specialty Equipment Market Association said it was disappointed by a federal appeals court's dismissal of a petition to block a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow the sale of ethanol containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15.
Petitioners from the auto, grocery and petroleum industries lacked standing to bring the action, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Aug. 17. However, Judge Brent M. Kavanaugh dissented from the majority opinion of Chief Judge David B. Sentelle and Judge David S. Tatel, saying he would have approved the petition.
The EPA has approved the use of E15 in vehicles from model year 2001 or later. The petitioners, however, argued before the court that E15 can cause damage to engines and engine parts.
In his decision, Chief Judge Sentelle ruled the petitioners did not prove the EPA action imposed any restrictions, costs or other burdens on them that would establish their standing to oppose it.
However, Judge Kavanaugh found the petition to have merit on its face.
“In granting the E15 partial waiver, EPA ran roughshod over the relevant statutory limits,” he wrote. The Clean Air Act, Judge Kavanaugh said, states plainly that no proposed new fuel can cause any vehicle built after 1974 to fail emissions standards, and the agency has plainly conceded E15 will cause vehicles made before 2001 to fail.
“Today's decision is disappointing for the millions of motorists who own older cars or those with high-performance specialty parts,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA vice president, government affairs.
“These vehicles and parts are threatened with destruction by E15's chemical properties,” McDonald said. “The EPA acknowledged the threat but, beyond minimal labeling requirements, took no additional steps to ensure that incompatible vehicles and engines were not misfueled with E15.”
A SEMA spokesman said the petitioners would make a decision within the next few days whether to appeal the panel's decision to the entire appeals court. Meanwhile, SEMA continues to support H.R. 3199, a bill that would prevent the EPA from introducing E15 into the marketplace before the National Academy of Sciences has completed a study on E15's effects on gasoline-powered vehicles. H.R. 3199 has passed the House Science Committee and awaits action on the House floor.