By BRENT KENDALL and RYAN TRACY
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday refused to
consider legal challenges by several industry trade groups to
an Environmental Protection Agency move
to expand ethanol use in the US.
Trade groups for food
producers, the oil and gas sector and the auto industry all
sued to contest a pair of EPA decisions that allowed the sale
of gasoline blends containing 15% ethanol. The agency regulates
fuels based on the pollution they create.
Currently, most of the US gasoline supply contains 10% of
the renewable fuel.
The EPA's move handed a partial victory to ethanol
manufacturers, which had pushed the agency to allow the higher
blends. The agency allowed the so-called E15 fuel for use in
vehicles dating back to the 2001 model year, but not for older
cars and trucks.
The various trade groups alleged they would suffer a variety
of harms from the increased ethanol use.
For example, members of the food industry argued it would
cost more to make and distribute food products because the
introduction of E15 fuel would increase demand -- and prices --
for corn, which is used to make most ethanol.
The auto industry alleged the new fuel could damage vehicle
engines, prompting consumers to bring warranty and safety
claims against car makers. Petroleum refiners and importers
said the introduction of E15 would force them to incur
The ethanol industry says E15 passed an EPA safety review
and consumers benefit from having the option to buy fuel with
more ethanol, because ethanol is often cheaper than oil-based
fuels. Ethanol supporters say the renewable fuel is just one
factor in corn prices.
Last August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit threw out all of the legal challenges without
passing judgment on the EPA's ethanol actions. The appeals court
said none of the challengers had a legal right to sue because
the harms they might suffer were too far removed from the EPA's
decision to allow E15.
The Supreme Court, in a short written order on Monday, let
that ruling stand, rejecting the challengers' appeals without
The high court's decision won't have an immediate impact on
the US gasoline market: The vast majority of filling stations
don't offer E15 fuel, save for about two dozen stations in the
Midwest, according to a recent count by the ethanol trade group
Renewable Fuels Association.
But the decision effectively kills the legal challenges to
E15, which is the ethanol industry's main hope for growth
beyond its current 10% share of the gasoline market.
Dow Jones Newswires
Editor's note: The following is the statement of response from the
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM)
The Supreme Courts decision denies the
petitioners their day in court and will have negative
repercussions for consumers. It is unfortunate that EPA's
decision to place politics ahead of science will stand,
said AFPM president Charles T. Drevna.
EPA's waiver allows gasoline containing 15% ethanol, called E15, a 50% increase
over a safe and efficient product to be sold into the general
fuel supply. AFPM challenged the legality of EPA's
decision because E15 has been shown to cause engine damage in
most automobiles, boats and outdoor power equipment, such as
chainsaws and lawnmowers.
The DC Circuit Court, which first considered AFPM's
case, ruled that the refining industry lacked standing to
challenge EPA's decision. The court reached this conclusion
despite the fact that refiners are forced to produce new
gasoline blendstocks, invest in the infrastructure necessary to
carry two types of fuels, and face potential liabilities from
engine damage because of EPAs decision.
In a disenting opinion, Judge Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit found
EPA ran roughshod over the relevant statutory
limits. AFPM petitioned the Supreme Court to
reconsider the district court's ruling, arguing that the DC
Circuits decision incorrectly limits the ability of
injured parties to seek judicial review of federal agency
AFPM continues to assert that EPA overstepped its
authority under the Clean Air Act when it granted partial
waivers to allow the use of E15 in certain engines, including
vehicles model year 2001 and newer.
Objective tests have shown that E15 may cause engine damage in
vehicles and therefore should not be an approved fuel under the
Clean Air Act that can be sold in the general gasoline