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Coalition requests judicial review of EPA limits on higher ethanol blends

In a joint petition filed with the US Court of Appeals, an alliance of ethanol, agriculture, and clean fuel organizations has requested judicial review of a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulemaking that would limit ethanol blending and restrict the use of blender pumps. The Urban Air Initiative (UAI) and National Farmers Union (NFU) are leading the alliance.

Earlier this summer, the EPA approved a rule that allows the year-round sales of gasoline blends containing 15% ethanol. While the petitioners believe this is a successful step forward, they point out that the rule also included new limitations on higher ethanol blends.

Specifically, the petitioners will argue that EPA misinterprets the “substantially similar” provision of the Clean Air Act to artificially limit ethanol blending. Because ethanol is a fuel additive used in EPA’s vehicle certification process, petitioners maintain that it is not subject to any volume limitations under the “sub-sim” law.

It is important to note that this is not a challenge to the fundamental ruling that allows year-round use of E15. Rather, it is an effort to build on E15 and allow us to provide even greater economic, heath, and energy benefits through higher blends. EPA should simply allow these fuels to compete in the market without requirements or subsidy.

—Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE) spokesperson and South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) President Doug Sombke

Compounding the problem, according to Urban Air Initiative (UAI) president David VanderGriend, is a provision that would effectively make ethanol blender pumps subject to restrictive new regulations. The rule would treat blender-pump retailers as fuel manufacturers, subjecting them to the same regulations as refineries. Consequently, blender pumps would only be allowed to dispense E15 and E85.

Substantial investment, at both the public and private levels, are at risk. Several of the petitioners, such as Jackson Express Inc. of Nebraska and the chain of Jump Start stores have pumps would be affected.

In addition to the aforementioned environmental and public health advantages, there are other reasons EPA should facilitate the use of higher level blends of ethanol, the coalition said.

American-grown biofuels, and higher level blends of ethanol in particular, are mutually beneficial for farmers, rural communities, automakers, the environment, and consumers. Not only do they improve air quality, but they create new markets for farm products, create good jobs, stimulate economic activity in rural communities, and lower fuel prices at the pump. Taking this into consideration, EPA should be doing everything it can to support higher level blends of ethanol.

—NFU President Roger Johnson

Joining UAI, NFU, SDFU, FUE, Jackson Express, and Jump Start on the petition are the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Nebraska Ethanol Industry Coalition, Big River Resources, LLC, Fagen, Inc., Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC, and Little Sioux Corn Processors.

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