SCOTUS denies E15 case; Biofuels groups laud decision as important

Jun 28, 2013
by DTN

The U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision not to hear an American Petroleum Institute (API) plea to strike down the Obama administration’s decision to allow the sale of E15 effectively ends the legal challenges to the fuel.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Alliance of Automobile Manufactures and the Grocery Manufacturers Association each petitioned the Supreme Court to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s Circuit decision Aug.

22, 2012, that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) E15 waiver. D.C. Circuit judges ruled the trade groups lacked standing to challenge EPA’s 2009 E15 waiver.

API asked the high court to consider the case because API says E15 can damage engines and cause vehicles that use it to break down— even vehicles that EPA has approved to use the fuel. Auto manufacturers have said they will not honor warranties when E15 causes damage, API said.

“Today’s court decision is a big loss for consumers, for safety and for our environment,” said Harry Ng, API vice president and general counsel, in a statement. “EPA approved E15 before vehicle testing was complete, and we now know the fuel may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today.”

Ng said auto and oil industry studies have shown E15 causes engine and fuel system damage “even in cars EPA has approved to use the fuel.” In various congressional hearings, automobile manufacturers have told lawmakers vehicle warranties will not cover E15-related damage.

“Moreover, EPA approved E15 even though government research showed potential infrastructure concerns at our nation’s gas stations that could lead to serious safety and environmental problems,” Ng said.

“EPA’s decision was irresponsible and unlawful, and consumers could bear the burden,” he said.

Ethanol industry advocacy groups lauded the decision as a win for consumers.

Tom Buis, chief executive officer for ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy, said in a statement Monday that the court’s decision was important in a number of ways.

“Today is a true victory for the American biofuels industry,” he said. “Time and again, big oil has challenged E15 and Growth Energy’s green jobs waiver in attempts to deny consumers a choice and savings at the pump and today marks the end of these baseless challenges.

“The highest court in the land has spoken—they have unequivocally rejected the attempts of big oil and other opponents of ethanol to challenge the EPA’s sensible decision to permit the sale of E15,” Buis said. “Now that the final word has been issued, I hope that oil companies will begin to work with biofuel producers to help bring new blends into the marketplace that allow for consumer choice and savings.

“This was not just a victory for consumers, but also for America’s energy security, economy and environment,” Buis said. “As our industry continues to produce homegrown American fuels that reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we will also continue to create jobs that cannot be outsourced and drive research and investment, all while improving our environment and the quality of the air we breathe with a cleaner, sustainable fuel.”

In addition to being an avenue to getting past the blend wall, where total ethanol production exceeds the available market, E15 is seen as a way to expand the U.S. market for corn.

Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, “I am pleased that today’s Supreme Court action ends a long and drawn-out petroleum industry effort to derail the commercialization of E15. The uncertainty created by this lawsuit has chilled commercial activity that would provide American consumers more affordable choices at the pump. With this decision, E15 can finally become a meaningful option for more Americans.” — Todd Neeley, DTN