House panel OKs bill delaying EPA approval of E15

Source: Amanda Peterka • E&E  • Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee today approved along party lines a bill that would require U.S. EPA to commission a study of the ethanol blend E15 before allowing it to be used in vehicles.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s measure would delay EPA’s final approval of the fuel blend by up to 19 months while the National Academy of Sciences carries out the study. At the end of the study, EPA would be required to report back to the House panel on whether it agrees with the academy’s findings.

“My bill puts science over politics and will allow EPA’s waivers of midlevel ethanol blends only after sufficient testing,” Sensenbrenner said.

No Democrats voted for the bill, H.R. 3199, which passed 19-7. The Democrats instead rallied around an amendment offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have required the study without delaying EPA’s approval of the fuel blend.

The amendment failed in a roll call vote of 7-19.

In October 2010, EPA approved a waiver allowing 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for passenger vehicles from model years 2007 and later. The agency approved E15 for use in models from 2001 to 2006 in January of last year and released a gasoline-station label for the blend in June.

EPA has yet to complete final registration of the fuel under the Clean Air Act.

The bill addresses concerns that EPA rushed through its study of E15 and ignored possible effects of the fuel on cars, including engine damage and decreased fuel efficiency, Sensenbrenner said. The lawmaker accused EPA of being “stone deaf” to the concerns of automakers.

Sensenbrenner and other Republicans, citing concerns by the U.S. Coast Guard and constituents, said they were also concerned that the fuel would be used in snowmobiles, boats and other vehicles not approved for E15.

The provision requiring EPA to report to the House panel was added as an amendment by Sensenbrenner. It passed by voice vote.

The bill is backed by a coalition that includes the American Petroleum Institute, Friends of the Earth, automobile trade groups, livestock associations and others (E&E Daily, Feb. 7).

Democrats accused Sensenbrenner and supporters of the bill of using it to attack EPA. Ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said that Republicans’ intent was to cause the “slow death” of every EPA regulation and that E15 was extensively researched by the agency.

“We cannot call into question EPA’s research every time we do not like their results,” she said.

Ethanol trade group Growth Energy also slammed the bill as a “waste of time and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“No fuel blend has been tested as thoroughly as E15. No fuel blend has undergone the level of scrutiny E15 has — and passed the tests like E15 did,” said Tom Buis, the group’s CEO, in statement.