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DC Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Arguments: Engine Products Group Says EPA’s Weak Ethanol Label Will Result in Misfueling, Damage to Products

April 17, 2012

Industry groups concerned about the effect of 15 percent ethanol (E15) on engines continue to urge the government to conduct further study, saying the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) weak labeling effort is inadequate to protect consumers and avoid potential misfueling and damage to millions of legacy products not designed to run on any ethanol fuel higher than E10.

In September 2011, members of the Engine Products Group (Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers) filed a formal legal challenge to EPA’s “Regulation to Mitigate Misfueling” rule which was meant to address concerns about 15 percent ethanol blends and non-road products and older model-year vehicles.  The group asked the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to hold the misfueling rule challenge case in abeyance (i.e., suspend temporarily) until the E15 Waiver case is concluded.   The court will hear oral arguments on April 17.

“We are asking that the EPA do more to protect the consumer.   We need to educate the public on a new fuel entering the market that is about to fundamentally change how we purchase and dispense gasoline.  And, we need to ensure that consumers can still find E10 for the millions of product – lawnmowers, chainsaws, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs and UTVs, boats and older cars – that still use an E10 legacy fuel,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.  OPEI points out that the EPA’s prior experience with fuel transitions and misfueling demonstrates that labeling alone is insufficient to prevent misfueling.  As the EPA led the transition to unleaded fuels, the Agency reported a misfueling rate of nearly 15 percent almost ten years after the introduction of unleaded gasoline, and even with a physical barrier at the pumps.

“EPA’s hasty attempts to speed introduction of E15 before necessary testing is complete could endanger the safety of American consumers, threatening their vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment with possibly severe damage,” said American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles T. Drevna.

“EPA’s misfueling rule fails to require that service station pumps contain a warning label directing consumers to check their owner’s manual to determine the appropriate fuel for specific vehicles. This is a significant and unfortunate omission.  EPA’s misfueling avoidance measures cannot assure that misfueling will not occur, and do not mitigate liability concerns and the flaws in the way EPA promulgated its E15 waiver regulations,” said Michael Stanton, President & CEO, Global Automakers.

“Automakers believe that renewable fuels are an important component of our national energy security, but it is not in the longer term interest of the government, vehicle manufacturers, fuel distributors or the ethanol industry itself, to find out after the fact that equipment or performance problems are occurring from rushing a new fuel into the national marketplace,” said Mitch Bainwol, President & CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Members of the Engine Products Group share widespread concerns already expressed to EPA that, as practical matter, the “partial” waiver that applies to only certain model years of vehicles will be problematic for consumers, fuel suppliers, and retailers to implement.  Pump labeling alone is sufficient to prevent extensive misfueling, especially where labels are expected to overcome consumer habits that have prevailed for many years.  And, a labeling approach may not be effective in the face of other factors, such as lower price, when consumers are making fueling decisions.

Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade group, petitioned the EPA in March 2009 to raise the limit on ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15 percent. Several engine product and auto manufacturers as well as others urged EPA to be deliberative in its review process, assuring thorough and adequate testing to ensure that E15 would not harm existing products or pose safety risks. By approving E15 use in a small subset of engines on the road, there is a high risk that consumers will unknowingly or mistakenly put E15 in products for which it has not been approved.

In March 2011, auto, marine, motorcycle, outdoor power equipment, personal watercraft and snowmobile groups filed a petition for rulemaking today asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the continued sale and availability of gasoline blends of no greater than 10 percent ethanol (E10) for the 400 million engine products used by tens of millions of people every day in the U.S.

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AFPM, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (formerly known as NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association) is a trade association representing high-tech American manufacturers of virtually the entire U.S. supply of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, other fuels and home heating oil, as well as the petrochemicals used as building blocks for thousands of vital products in daily life. AFPM members make modern life possible and keep America moving and growing as they meet the needs of our nation and local communities, strengthen economic and national security, and support 2 million American jobs.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing more than 80 engine and equipment manufacturers worldwide in the utility, forestry, landscape, and lawn and garden industry. OPEI is a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Standards Organization (ISO) in the development of safety standards. For more information, visit www.OPEI.org.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 12 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

The Association of Global Automakers represents international motor vehicle manufacturers, original equipment suppliers, and other automotive-related trade associations. Our members’ market share of both U.S. sales and production is 40 percent and growing. We work with industry leaders, legislators, and regulators to create the kind of public policy that improves vehicle safety, encourages technological innovation, and protects our planet. Our goal is to foster a competitive environment in which more vehicles are designed and built to enhance Americans’ quality of life. For more information, visit www.globalautomakers.org.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the nation’s leading trade association representing boat, marine engine and accessory manufacturers. Collectively, NMMA members manufacture an estimated 80 percent of marine products used in North America. NMMA is a unifying force and powerful voice for the recreational boating industry, working to strengthen and grow boating and protect the interests of its member companies. For more information, please visit www.nmma.org.