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CALIFORNIA SUES EPA OVER ETHANOL
State takes agency to court to fight oxygen content requirement for gasoline
California is suing EPA over a decision requiring the addition of ethanol to 70% of the gasoline sold in the state.
In June, EPA turned down California's request for a waiver from a decade-old Clean Air Act provision requiring that gasoline sold in heavily polluted urban areas contain 2% oxygen by weight. The oxygen reduces smog-forming emissions from vehicles. To make the cleaner burning fuel, refiners throughout most of the U.S., including California, now add methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) as an oxygenate.
||MOVING The LA freeway won't be less crowded in 2003, but the cars could end up running on ethanol.
But because the additive contaminates drinking water supplies, Gov. Gray Davis (D) ordered removal of MTBE from gasoline sold in the state by 2003. California argued that refiners can now make cleaner burning gasoline without oxygen additives.
Without an EPA waiver, the state must continue to meet the oxygenate requirement. California would need at least 660 million gal of ethanol per year to replace MTBE in cleaner burning gasoline, according to state officials. Midwestern agribusinesses, eager to supply corn-derived ethanol to meet that demand, support EPA's decision.
On Aug. 10, California asked a federal court to force EPA to grant the Clean Air Act waiver.
"EPA simply ignored the voluminous information we sent them showing that ethanol does nothing to clean the air and actually increases air pollution," Davis says.
Several environmental groups back California's stance.
But Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, an organization of ethanol producers, dismisses the state's argument. "Science supports maintaining the oxygen standard," he says. "This lawsuit will only discourage the very real opportunities for ethanol production within California."
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