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EPA to Issue E15 Label Rules in Next Few Months, Chief Says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue final rules for labeling gasoline pumps that carry a higher blend of ethanol within months, Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

“We expect to issue a final rule in the next few months,” Jackson said today in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee about the EPA’s fiscal budget.

The EPA has been crafting label requirements after granting a request from ethanol producers to raise the amount of the corn-based additive in fuel for vehicles made for the 2001 model year and later. Refiners will be able to blend gasoline with as much as 15 percent ethanol, up from 10 percent.

The blend can’t be sold until federal rules are in place to ensure that so-called E15 is labeled properly at gasoline pumps. The requirements are aimed at preventing use of the fuel in vehicles that aren’t approved to handle the new blend. Some environmental groups and other opponents of E15 say they aren’t convinced labeling measures will be enough to prevent damage to engines.

“We don’t believe that a label will be sufficient to mitigate all misfueling, but we do support stronger and more detailed language on the ethanol label,” the Washington-based Environmental Working Group said in a Jan. 3 letter to Jackson. “Stronger and more detailed labels seem to us to be the next-best solution to our preferred option, denying the E15 waiver altogether.”

‘No Better Time’

Growth Energy, a Washington-based ethanol trade group that submitted the request to lift the limits on the additive, said it welcomed the EPA’s timeframe for the labeling rules.

“There’s no better time than now to move E15 into the market, considering the alternative of continuing to see high oil prices and high gas prices,” Growth Energy Chief Executive Officer Tom Buis said today in a statement. “Lifting the regulatory barriers preventing higher blends of U.S.- made ethanol from getting into the pump would start to push gas prices down right away.”

The EPA had been pressed by supporters of the ethanol industry to raise the limit to increase demand and help boost consumption for an industry that saw at least a dozen companies seek bankruptcy protection in an 18-month period.

Oil companies, automakers and environmental groups say higher ethanol in fuel may damage engines, boost food prices and worsen air quality, and that refiners and convenience stores selling fuel may be reluctant to market the new blend.

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