Battle to implement E15 waiver continues

By Holly Jessen | December 11, 2011

Letters for and against an amendment that would prevent the U.S. EPA from using appropriated funds to implement the E15 waiver have recently been sent to leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees.

It started Dec. 7, with a letter authored by Reps. John Sullivan, R-Okla., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and 73 of their colleagues, requesting that the House Appropriations Committee include an amendment in the fiscal year 2012 omnibus appropriations package that would slow down the implementation of E15 to allow for more testing. The letter, which was addressed to Chairman Harold Rogers and ranking member Norm Dicks, concluded that more testing is needed to make sure that E15  will not harm consumer vehicles. “The Sullivan/Peters amendment will provide a much needed time-out for such analyses to be completed,” the letter’s authors said. “The desire to allow for more ethanol to enter the transportation fuel pool should not trump sound science.” 

On Dec. 8, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the National Corn Growers Association followed up with a letter of their own to the leadership of both committees. The groups said the amendment was “aimed at derailing and altering the long-standing process by which new fuel blends are brought into the marketplace,” adding that the waiver approval followed a research and data collection process that was more exhaustive than was required for any of the other 11 previously approved fuel waivers.   

Notably, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used the phrase “sound science” in January when she announced the E15 waiver for model year 2001 though 2006. “Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks," she said. "Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

The amendment contains essentially the same language as what was approved in the House in February. However, since the Senate never took action on the corresponding bill, action was halted before consideration of the Sullivan/Peters amendment. Further, the ethanol industry groups pointed out that it was not voted on during this year’s appropriations process and did not receive a hearing in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

 “Preventing the EPA from implementing the use of E15 for cars, pickups and SUVs made in model year 2001 and newer further contributes to our nation’s reliance on foreign oil,” the industry groups said. “Extensive testing has been done on E15 and it has been found to be a safe and effective fuel for use in the vehicles approved in the waiver. There has been no evidence to the contrary that would indicate problems in any vehicle regardless of vintage.”

The groups also pointed out that the waiver does not make the sale or purchase of E15 mandatory. Although the Sullivan/Peters letter expresses concern about the impact of E15 on marine engines, the ethanol industry group also pointed out that gas pumps will be clearly labeled, outlining that the use of the fuel in marine engines, model year 2000 vehicles and older and small engines is illegal. Finally, the groups said the amendment would inhibit efforts to move to second-generation fuels. “We are looking toward cutting-edge innovation to move to new ethanol feedstocks, like plant wastes, wood chips, and switchgrass,” the ethanol groups said. “The Sullivan/Peters language would solidify the status quo— a 90 percent mandate of our fuel supply from oil and would prevent American-made ethanol from being made available to consumers.”