Oil lobby urges Supreme Court to take up E15 case

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The oil industry is urging the Supreme Court to take up challenges to U.S. EPA’s decision to expand the amount of ethanol in gasoline, just days after the agency encouraged the high court to ignore those petitions.

In a court brief filed late yesterday afternoon, the American Petroleum Institute argued that the D.C. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit erred when it ruled last August that oil, engine and food groups did not have legal standing to pursue a challenge to EPA’s approval of E15, or gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol.

EPA approved the new 15 percent blend for use in model-year cars 2001 or newer through two partial waivers of Clean Air Act regulations. The three-judge appeals panel said the interest groups did not prove that they were directly affected by EPA’s decision.

Several of the groups involved in the case have petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court ruling (Greenwire, Feb. 21).

In its brief, which the oil industry group circulated today, API contends that EPA’s decision is a de facto mandate on fuel manufacturers and automakers to use E15, rather than the current industry standard of 10 percent ethanol. Refiners would be required to use E15 in order to comply with the country’s yearly biofuel mandates set under the renewable fuel standard, API said in the court documents.

API called its petition a matter of “national importance.” API and engine groups argued in front of the appeals court that E15 has the potential to damage car engines and fuel systems. Food groups, meanwhile, have argued that the use of E15 would increase the amount of corn going toward ethanol production and drive up corn prices.

The Supreme Court petitions have support from the states of Alabama, Oklahoma and Virginia, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Public Citizen.

In a brief filed late last month with the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing EPA, asked that the high court ignore the petitions, arguing that the groups had failed to highlight any flaws in the D.C. Circuit’s reasoning (Greenwire, May 30).

“To a large extent,” Verrilli wrote, “petitioners ask this court to grant review, and ultimately reverse the judgment of the court of appeals, based on evidence and arguments that were never presented to that court. Further review is not warranted.”

Supreme Court justices will decide whether to take up the case either before their current term ends this month or when they return next fall.