GOP lawmakers want answers from EPA on 4-gallon requirement

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Two Republican House members are demanding answers from U.S. EPA over a requirement that vehicle owners purchase at least 4 gallons of gasoline when filling up at stations that sell mid-level ethanol blends out of the same hose.

Reps. Jim Sensenbrenne of Wisconsin and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota yesterday sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a list of questions on the requirement and other steps the agency is taking to prevent unapproved vehicles from filling up with E15, or gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol.

The agency recently approved E15 for sale in the United States through two partial Clean Air Act waivers for cars from model year 2001 and newer; up until now, gas stations commonly have sold E10, or gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol. The 4-gallon requirement would apply at gas stations that sell E10 and E15 out of the same hose. It is intended to prevent vehicles with smaller fuel tanks, like motorcycles, from filling up with the higher-ethanol blend and risking damage.

“The EPA has no business telling Americans how much fuel they must purchase,” the lawmakers wrote. “This unprecedented attempt to remedy the consequences of EPA’s E15 waivers will not prevent widespread misfueling of millions of vehicles and products already owned by Americans that are not covered by the waiver decisions and introduces an unacceptable intrusion into the daily lives of drivers.”

The letter is the latest attempt by Sensenbrenner to slow the introduction of E15 into the U.S. market.

Last year, Sensenbrenner introduced a measure, H.R. 3199, that would require EPA to commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences before giving final approval to E15. The measure passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in February of this year and has since stalled (Greenwire, Feb. 7).

Sensenbrenner said at the time that EPA acted hastily in approving E15, pointing to statements from carmakers saying the ethanol blend would damage car engines. The ethanol industry has maintained that E15 is the most tested fuel that has been allowed in the marketplace.

Since Sensenbrenner’s measure passed the science panel, EPA gave final approval to E15, and two gas stations in Kansas began selling the fuel.

In order to sell E15, retailers and producers must follow “misfueling mitigation plans” to assure that unapproved vehicles, such as boats, lawnmowers, snowmobiles and motorcycles, don’t fill up with the fuel.

EPA set the 4-gallon requirement “to prevent vehicles and engines with smaller fuel tanks from being exposed to gasoline-ethanol blended fuels containing greater than 10 volume percent ethanol,” EPA’s Byron Bunker said in a letter to the American Motorcyclist Association earlier this year.

Sensenbrenner and Cravaack called the 4-gallon plan “EPA’s first-ever mandated purchase requirement” and said it “appears to have been made outside the normal rulemaking process.”

The lawmakers wrote that EPA’s plan to require a minimum 4 gallons is “particularly disconcerting” in light of the Obama administration’s support and funding for the installation of the blender pumps. The administration has announced a goal of installing 10,000 blender pumps nationwide over the next five years.

“The four-gallon rule is a lousy attempt to mitigate E15’s harmful impact on small engines,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement provided by email. “It highlights that the E15 partial waiver is unworkable and hands the EPA unprecedented power at the same time. Administrator Jackson is mistaken if she thinks the federal government should mandate how much gasoline Americans must buy.”

Sensenbrenner and Cravaack have asked EPA to provide by Sept. 24 the specific statutory authority that allows it to require consumers to purchase a minimum amount of fuel, information on whether the agency accepted public comment on the requirement, and the technical basis EPA used in coming to the 4-gallon number.

Sensenbrenner and Cravaack also have asked for an updated list of companies that have approved mitigation plans and other information on misfueling.