Republicans Question Minimum Fuel Purchase Mandate

EPA now forcing consumers to buy at least four gallons of gas at certain pumps

James Sensenbrenner

WASHINGTON -- In a letter (click here) sent to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this month, Science, Space & Technology Committee vice chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and committee member, Representative Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), questioned the 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, the EPA's National Vehicle & Fuel Emissions Laboratory informed the American Motorcyclist Association of its new minimum purchase mandate, announcing that all retail stations that sell gasoline 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 (click here).

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 the 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, Sensenbrenner and Cravaack call on the EPA to explain the specific statutory authority that empowers it to compel consumers to purchase minimum amounts of fuel. The letter also questioned the 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, Sensenbrenner presented 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 (click here).

In February of 2012, the Committee on Science, Space & Technology passed H.R. 3199, bipartisan legislation to require a more vigorous and scientific assessment of the effects of E15.