House panel adopts bill that would hold up EPA approval of E15

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2012 -The House Science, Space and Technology Committee Tuesday morning marked up and sent to the House floor a measure calling on the EPA to commission a National Academy of Sciences study of the effects of blending 15 percent ethanol in gasoline.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., sponsored the bill, contending it was needed to address concerns that E15 will damage the engines of vehicles. Citing the influence of the ethanol industry, he said EPA's approval of E15 blends last year was “more about politics than science.”

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However, the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said the measure offered only “political theater,” claiming the bill had no chance of passage in the Senate and would be vetoed by the White House.

She and other Democrats on the panel claimed the bill was an attack on the EPA and defended the agency's work in approving E15 for use in passenger vehicles, first in 2010 for model years 2007 and newer, and then early last year for model years 2001 to 2006. The agency also released a pump label for the blend last year. Rep. Jerry Costello said the Department of Energy conducted more than 100,000 vehicle tests in helping EPA reach its conclusions.

EPA has yet to grant E15 final registration, but ethanol proponents say Sensenbrenner's bill could delay final implementation of E15 for up to two years. Meanwhile, the industry is trying to convince EPA that E15 is suitable for all cars and light trucks.

However, the oil industry has joined with livestock interests, auto manufacturers and environmental groups in support of H.R. 3199. In a letter sent Monday to committee Chairman Ralph Hall, R-Texas, and Johnson, 31 organizations said the bill would require the NAS and EPA “to conduct a necessary comprehensive assessment of the testing that has been conducted” and “halt EPA's rush to introduce mid-level ethanol blends and ensure such fuel blends receive the proper scientific analysis before being put into the marketplace.”

The ethanol industry says the measure represents government interference in innovation that can increase national energy security and create jobs.

The industry has long complained of an E10 blend wall that limits domestic use of the alternative fuel, resulting in record exports of ethanol over the past year. The industry is trying to expand use of ethanol in more vehicles through E15 blends, and to grow the alternative fuel's market by encouraging federal policies increasing the nation's fleet of flex-fuel vehicles that can take higher blends of ethanol and wider installation of blender pumps that give consumers a choice of ethanol blends.

During Tuesday's markup, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., offered a substitute to Sensenbrenner's bill that would allow the joint study involving the NAS, but allow EPA to continue with its E15 approval process. Lofgen's substitute measure was rejected by the same margin by which Sensenbrenner's bill was approved, 19-7, mostly along party lines.



Original story printed in February 8, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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