EPA Sued Over E15

A suit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow gasoline containing 15-percent ethanol to be sold could be decided by summer’s end. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, joined by oil industry, automobile manufacturing and agricultural trade groups, filed the suit July 13, 2011, maintaining that the EPA’s partial waiver allowing E15 for some engines and not others violates the federal Clean Air Act and other laws.

In November of 2010, the EPA approved 15-percent ethanol as a fuel additive, but only for use in 2006 and newer cars and light trucks; then in January 2011 modified its approval to include vehicles in model year 2001 and newer. At issue in this lawsuit is the fact that E15 has been shown to damage non-road engines, especially inboard and outboard boat engines. Boaters who trailer their boats often fill-up at gas stations where E15 gas might be sold.

As part of the waiver, the EPA made it illegal to use E15 in any other engines, but concern remains that the public could mistakenly use the fuel in the wrong engines, resulting not only in mechanical damage but in potentially voided warranties. The suit contends that the EPA hasn’t done enough to prevent the public from misfueling. As a condition of the partial waiver, the EPA requires retailers to display a warning sticker on E15 gas pumps, declaring that its use in non-approved engines is illegal; the lawsuit declares that this measure is inadequate.

If the court decides against the EPA, that could delay or prevent E15 from being sold. However, it’s likely the agency would appeal the decision, industry observers say.
“Regardless of what the court decides or when the case is finally settled, it’s important to note that the EPA is not requiring the use or sale of E15,” BoatUS President Margaret Podlich said. “Many states will have to change their laws to allow an increase from 10-percent ethanol, but E15 could be showing up already in some markets across the Midwest states, and that’s why we think it’s very important for boaters to get in the habit of checking the labels on gas pumps.”

No matter where you fill up, or whether it’s your car, boat, outboard gas tank, or tow vehicle, Podlich said, “take a peek at the pump and check the label before you grab the nozzle.” — Ryck Lydecker