Today in a letter sent to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, Science, Space and Technology Committee Vice Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Committee Member, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), question EPA's recent decision to mandate consumers purchase at least four gallons of fuel from blender pumps that dispense both E15 and E10 gasoline-ethanol blends.
In August, EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory informed the American Motorcyclist Association of its new minimum purchase mandate, announcing that all retail stations that sell gas from E15-E10 blender pumps must require consumers purchase at least four gallons to prevent vehicles and engines from being exposed to potentially harmful E15 blends. E15, which was approved for sale by EPA in June, is known to damage a variety of engines and vehicle types, including older passenger vehicles, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs and lawnmowers. Its long-term effects on vehicle engines are less understood, but EPA recently issued Clean Air Act waivers to allow E15's use in vehicles from model years 2001 and newer.
"The EPA has no business telling Americans how much fuel they must purchase," the lawmakers said. "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."
"Furthermore, the EPA's first-ever mandated purchase requirement appears to have been made outside the normal rulemaking process, seems antithetical to free markets, and highlights the flaws in the Agency's hasty decision to grant partial waivers for E15 prior to comprehensive scientific assessment and evaluation."
In their letter, Reps. Sensenbrenner and Cravaack call on EPA to explain the specific statutory authority that empowers it to compel consumers to purchase minimum amounts of fuel. The letter also questions EPA's decision to enact this mandate outside of the normal rulemaking and public comment process, and requests documentation regarding the technical basis behind this decision.
In July 2011, Rep. Sensenbrenner presented Administrator Jackson with letters from 14 major automakers that argued E15 would lower fuel efficiency, damage engines, and void warranties in their vehicles, including those made after 2001. In February of 2012, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed H.R. 3199, bipartisan legislation to require a more vigorous and scientific assessment of the effects of E15.