Fact Sheet: E-15 Partial Waiver Legal Challenge
On December 20, 2010, the newly formed Engine Products Group comprising the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Inc. (AIAM), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) filed a petition challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to grant a partial waiver approving the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol (E-15) for 2007 model year and newer passenger cars and light trucks.
Partial Waiver Shortcomings
- EPA has failed to document or estimate the rate of misfueling that would occur under its “partial waiver” and the resulting environmental and economic consequences on consumers, owners and operators and on engine manufacturers that could become unfairly subject to warranty claims for damaged products.
- In its waiver decision, EPA has failed to address how consumers would even have continued access to fuels containing no more than 10% ethanol. Consumers would have no choice but to misfuel their products with E-15 if that is the only fuel offered by a gas retailer.
- In 2007, Congress prohibited EPA from approving a fuel waiver (for any fuels containing more than 10% Ethanol) unless the Agency determined that those fuels would not cause “any” failures (from on-road or non-road products) to meet their applicable emission standards over their useful lives in operation.
The petition filing is based on the following facts:
- The premature introduction of mid-level ethanol blends (as a general purpose fuel) could result in unintended adverse impacts on the 250 million Americans who own and operate over 400 million motor vehicles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, chainsaws, recreational boats, ATVs, etc.
- Except for “flexible fuel vehicles” (FFVs), on-road and non-road engines are not designed to operate on fuels that contain more than 10% ethanol. Fuels containing more than 10% ethanol could cause significant and permanent damage to these products, void their product-warranty coverage, create potential operating hazards, and increase emissions above applicable emission limits.
- In decisions issued on October 13, 2010, EPA recognized that E-15 blends can cause “engine failures from over heating” as well as emission increases and “emission (durability) impacts and material compatibility issues.” Accordingly, EPA denied a broad waiver request to allow the introduction into commerce of 15% ethanol into non-road engines, vehicles and equipment as well as in older model year motor vehicles. However, EPA conditionally approved based on inadequate tests the ultimate introduction into commerce of E-15 fuels into newer (2007 and later) model year motor vehicles.
The main concerns are that:
1) almost without exception, current off-road equipment is not designed, built or warranted for mid-level blends and consumers could encounter performance irregularities, increased heat and exhaust temperatures, failure or unintentional clutch engagement which pose a safety risk, and
2) EPA had not put into place an effective, practical or enforceable mechanism to bifurcate the fuels market. Instead, EPA’s approach is based on the assumption that gasoline retailers can somehow (through a “self-policing” warning label) keep E-15 fuels from being misfueled, even though there will likely be a significant price incentive to purchase these less expensive fuels.
Despite these serious concerns, in October, 2010, the EPA did indeed approve higher levels of ethanol (E-15 or 15% ethanol) in gasoline for use in only 2007 and newer automobiles.