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Federal appeals court upholds EPA plan to add more ethanol to gasoline

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] acted lawfully when it approved a plan to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline. The EPA approved the introduction of a fuel blend known as E15 which consists of 15 percent ethanol, up from the usual 10 percent. The petitioners in the case—a group of car manufacturers, food makers and oil refiners—argued [Reuters report] that the EPA's approval of E15 would harm them by increasing the price of corn and subjecting car makers to increased liability over potential engine malfunctions due to ethanol. In a 2-1 decision, the DC Circuit rejected the petitioners' argument, holding that there was no causal relationship between the EPA's decision to approve E15 and the alleged cost the petitioners would incur:

Petitioners' attempt to draw a causal link between the E15 waivers they challenge and the costs they would incur by introducing E15 ultimately rings hollow. If anything is "forcing" these entities to incur the costs of introducing a new fuel, it is the obligations set by the [Renewable Fuel Standard], competitive pressures, or some combination thereof. EPA's partial waivers simply provide a new choice of fuel that manufacturers may produce.
One judge dissented, arguing that the EPA acted unlawfully in approving the E15 fuel blend.

The DC Circuit's decision marks a rare victory for the EPA, which has faced several legal defeats in the past year. Last week the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the EPA overstepped its bounds when it rejected a Texas plan to issue air permits. Three weeks ago the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the EPA violated several environmental statutes when it issued regulations on coal mining in the Appalachia region. In October a federal judge similarly ruled [JURIST report] against the agency regarding its process for granting permits used by coal companies for mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. There, the court ordered that the EPA's 2009 guidelines be set aside so that all pre-2009 guidelines could be restored. In an out-of-court defeat last September the US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act 2011 [text, PDF], a bill that essentially blocks a number of proposed EPA regulations aimed at reducing emissions.

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