The National Corn Growers Association says the ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals substantiating U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions supporting ethanol is not a setback for the renewable fuel. The same court ruling also requires EPA to reconsider a portion of California's request for a waiver from federal fuel additive requirements.
“While some may see this decision as a loss for ethanol, in reality, the EPA's original decision was reaffirmed,” said Jon Doggett, the NCGA's vice president of public policy. “The court said EPA should have also looked at the impact on national ambient air quality standards. We are comfortable with the issues being remanded back to EPA. We are on the verge of obtaining a national renewable fuels standard, and we don't view this as a setback.”
According to court documents, “The EPA abused its discretion by refusing to evaluate the effect that an oxygen waiver would have on California's efforts to comply. We accordingly remand this case to the EPA with instructions to give full consideration to the effect of a waiver on both the ozone and pollutant standards.”
The Federal Clean Air Act of 1990 requires the smoggiest areas in the United States to use blended gasoline that is cleaner burning and includes an oxygenate, normally ethanol or methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
As part of the Clean Air Act, California is phasing out MTBE with a deadline of Jan.1, 2004. To comply with the phase-out, refiners are using the corn-derived fuel additive, ethanol. Unless granted the waiver, California refiners will have to keep using ethanol.
“The ruling furthers the ethanol industry's ability to move into a new market without disruption of supply,” says Doggett. “It will also provide for a healthier environment in California.”
NCGA notes that California's changeover from MTBE to ethanol has been a smooth process and is almost 80 percent complete.