Houston, 17 August (Argus) — A narrow US appeals court majority tossed challenges from engine-, food- and fuel-producing groups to waivers that allow the production of gasoline blended with 15pc ethanol (E15).
None of the groups managed to show harm granting proper legal standing in their challenge of a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waiver of certain Clean Air Act statutes to allow specific vehicles to use E15, two of the three judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled today.
But dissenting opinions showed a swing vote found in favor of the dismissal only along narrow legal lines, and that a majority of the judges believed the food-producing opponents had some standing.
“EPA will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition as businesses decide whether to introduce E15 into the market,” the agency said.
The groups challenged EPA waivers to fuel standards that allow the use of 15pc ethanol gasoline in light-duty vehicles model year 2001 and after. Engine manufacturers argued the fuel could damage certain engines and subject the industry to warranty claims. Fuel refiners and importers objected to changes they said would force costly changes to produce. And food groups fretted the blend would drive up demand for corn to crush into ethanol, and so drive up food prices.
Engine manufacturer objections were dropped out of hand, with chief judge David Sentelle describing their case as “convoluted” and without evidence. Refiners' real argument was with the Renewable Fuel Standards, which set mandated renewable fuel blending volumes, and not the waivers allowing E15, he wrote. EPA's waivers do not force anyone to produce the fuel.
Food groups fell the farthest from consideration, under Sentelle's opinion, as they had failed to demonstrate their interests were directly affected by the fuel waiver.
But he had only the narrowest support from fellow judges David Tatel and Brett Kavanaugh, who both considered the food groups to have proper standing. But Tatel said to rule in their favor would improperly go against precedent, so the groups' standing to argue the waivers, which was not challenged by the EPA, was thus tossed.
“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,” the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, which brought the suit, said. “The decision clears the way for the continuation of misguided food-to-fuel policies at a time when Americans can least afford it.”
Oil industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute (API) immediately assailed the ruling.
“It is astounding that the court does not accept that refiners, who must comply with the ethanol mandate, have standing to bring this case,” Bob Greco, API downstream group director, said in a statement.
Ethanol trade group Renewable Fuels Association called the dismissal “an important step forward in the nation's quest to diversify our nation's fuel supply.”
“Allowing for additional ethanol use will help lower prices at the pump, create domestic jobs and accelerate the commercialization of new biofuel technologies,” RFA chief executive Bob Dineen said in a statement.
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