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E15 Survives Another Appeals Court Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- E15 earned another victory in court yesterday when the United States District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied petitions to rehear a case that challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) permitted commercial use of the petroleum alternative.

The case, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, et al. v. EPA, is not the first challenge to E15, a gasoline blend featuring 15-percent ethanol and 85-percent traditional gasoline. In August, an U.S. appeals court upheld the approval of E15 in a 2-1 vote. In discussing its decision, the court claimed the food and auto industries, as well as oil refiners, which brought forth the suit, failed to prove they were harmed by E15's approval.

The EPA approved E15 for use in cars and light trucks made since the 2000 model year. It is barred from use in light equipment and older vehicles. E10 is currently and commonly used throughout the country.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has yet to issue a statement regarding yesterday's ruling. Following the August decision, the trade group stated: "The court’s split decision to dismiss the petition on procedural grounds instead of the merits of the case is disappointing and unfortunate for consumers. The decision clears the way for the continuation of misguided food–to-fuel policies at a time when Americans can least afford it."

Further clouding the waters for E15 was a telephone survey the American Automobile Association (AAA) concluded last month. As CSNews Online reported, the survey revealed that 95 percent of consumers don't understand E15 fuel standards.

"It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle," AAA President Robert Darbelnet said in a statement last month. "Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers."

However, yesterday's court decision was hailed as a victory for the renewable fuel standard, a mandate put forth by the Obama Administration to increase fuel mileage.

Also, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, an organization that represents the producers and supporters of ethanol, applauded the court decision and said it opens the door for further investment in new fueling technologies to offer E15 to consumers.

"[Yesterday's] result is a win-win for American consumers, providing them with both a choice and savings at the pump, and is a critical step in increasing market access," Buis said. "Not only will E15 help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it will also help create jobs here at home and revitalize rural economies, while also improving our environment by increasing the availability and use of a cleaner burning fuel."

It is unknown if yesterday's court ruling permanently closed the book on E15 litigation.

Following the EPA's decision to approve the sale of E15 in June, Scott Zaremba, CEO of Zarco 66 in Kansas, was the first to offer the fuel alternative at the pump.

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