Thursday, October 25, 2007

Groups to Congress: make sure EPA has adequate power to prevent problems from more ethanol

American Lung Association ∙ Clean Air Task Force ∙ Clean Air Watch
Earth Justice ∙ National Association of Clean Air Agencies
Natural Resources Defense Council ∙ Sierra Club

October 23, 20007

The Honorable Jeff Bingaman The Honorable Pete Domenici
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee Committee
703 Hart Senate Office Building 328 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable John D. Dingell The Honorable Joe Barton
Chairman Ranking Member
House Energy and Commerce Committee House Energy and Commerce Committee
2328 Rayburn House Office Building 2109 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Members of Congress:

As House and Senate leaders begin efforts to resolve the differences between the House energy bill, H.R. 3221, and the Senate energy bill, H.R. 6, the undersigned public health, environmental, and state and local air pollution control organizations urge your strong support for Sections 9305 (“Study of Ethanol-Blended Gasoline with Greater Levels of Ethanol”) and 9310 (“Review of New Renewable Fuels or New Renewable Fuel Additives”) of the House energy bill.

EPA Must Study the Effects of Mid-Level Ethanol Use

Congress should enact Section 9305 of H.R. 3221, which directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation, to study the safety, emissions, and performance impacts of gasoline blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol (so-called “mid-level ethanol blends”). As you may know, 10-percent ethanol is the maximum percentage of ethanol allowed for general use today. (E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol with gasoline is limited to use in “flexi-fueled” vehicles). Such a study would require an analysis of mid-level ethanol blends for both on- and off-road gasoline engines, including those used in automobiles; boats and jet skis; lawn, garden, and other equipment; and ski mobiles.

There is little available data regarding the impact of mid-level ethanol blends on emission, air quality, public health, or safety. Some existing evidence indicates that the use of mid-level ethanol blends in these engines, especially small off-road engines, may result in operability problems, safety concerns, increased emissions, and reduced performance. Clearly, prudence dictates that before the use of mid-level ethanol blends is authorized, a comprehensive study should be undertaken to evaluate the use of mid-level ethanol blends in all gasoline-powered engines.

While Sections 142 and 149 of the Senate bill require studies of mid-level ethanol, we support Section 9305 of the House bill because it would require that the study be led by EPA, the federal agency best equipped to address the emissions, safety, and operability issues associated with mid-level ethanol blends. In addition, the study required by the House bill is more comprehensive.

EPA Approval of Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Should be Conducted Like Other Clean Air Act Rules

The House energy bill includes specific provisions related to EPA’s role in reviewing and approving applications under Section 211(f)(4) for new renewable fuels and renewable fuel additives; the Senate bill contains no such provisions.
We support the provisions of Section 9310 of H.R. 3221, which would require that EPA provide public notice and comment prior to approving or denying an application to introduce a new renewable fuel or new renewable fuel additive blend into commerce. Currently, under Section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act, if EPA receives an application to approve the sale of mid-level ethanol blends, it is not required to provide public notice of the fact that it received such an application and it is not required to request and evaluate public comment on such an application. Further, current law does not require EPA to affirmatively grant or deny such an application by a date certain. However, Section 211(f)(4) does provide that if EPA does not act on an application for approval within 180 days of its submission, the application is deemed granted, even in the absence of EPA action, public comment, or consideration of the application’s merits.

We support Section 9310 of H.R. 3221 because it would require EPA to subject applications for approval of a new renewable fuel or new renewable fuel additive under Section 211(f)(4) to public notice and comment to assure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to submit their views to EPA for consideration. Section 9310 would further require EPA to take final action on an application within nine months of its submission after applying the evaluation criteria of existing law to the use of a new renewable fuel or renewable fuel additive in on-road and off-road engines.

Section 9310 of H.R. 3221 does not amend Clean Air Act Section 211(f)(4). Rather, it imposes additional requirements on EPA when considering application for approval of new renewable fuels or renewable fuel additives under Section 211(f) (4). We urge you revise Section 9310 to amend Section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act to ensure that EPA’s consideration and decision-making regarding new renewable fuels and new renewable fuel additive applications for approval are subject to the same enforcement and judicial review requirements as all other provisions of the Clean Air Act.
The use of mid-level ethanol blends across our nation could have significant impacts on engine emissions, air quality, engine performance, and safety. The approval of mid-level ethanol use in the nation’s fuel supply must be subject to significant analysis and full public scrutiny. Sections 9305 and 9310 of the House bill, as described above, would accomplish this and, therefore, we urge you to support these provisions.
Paul G. Billings Conrad Schneider
Vice President, National Policy & Advocacy Advocacy Director
American Lung Association Clean Air Task Force

Frank O’Donnell Marty Hayden
President Legislative Director
Clean Air Watch Earth Justice

S. William Becker Karen Wayland
Executive Director Legislative Director
National Association of Clean Air Agencies Natural Resources Defense Council

Debbie Sease
National Campaigns Director
Sierra Club

Cc: The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

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