11 September 2000 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]Trade groups representing ethanol producers and corn growers are urging Environmental Protection Agency to deny California's request for a waiver from the federal reformulated gasoline (RFG) oxygenate requirement.
In April 1999, California asked to be excused from the Clean Air Act requirement that RFG contain at least 2 percent oxygen by weight because of concerns over methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) contamination in groundwater.
State officials also fear that ethanol, which in the US is primarily made from corn, might not be an adequate replacement. They want refiners to have the flexibility to make RFG without using MTBE, ethanol or any other oxygenated additive.
But in a letter to EPA assistant administrator Robert Perciasepe, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) say the agency should deny the waiver request because of new technical data demonstrating the air quality benefits of oxygenates.
"While I understand California's desire to remove MTBE from its gasoline supply as quickly as possible, the science demonstrates that oxygenates like ethanol do provide real air quality benefits that result in cleaner air for our citizens," says RFA president Eric Vaughn. "Using ethanol will maintain the air quality benefits of RFG without harming water supplies."
The groups' analysis indicates that "non-oxygenated gasoline will increase VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions while providing little if any NOx (nitrogen oxide) benefits."
The analysis also examines the impact of non-oxygenated gasoline on off-road emissions. It found that NOx emissions decrease slightly, but VOC emissions increase significantly. "We conclude that for all reasonable attainment plans, the increase in VOC will increase ozone."
NCGA president Lynn Jensen says: "Our analysis continues to show that removing oxygenates from gasoline will have negative environmental consequences. That is why EPA should deny this waiver and begin the transition to ethanol in California."
EPA is expected to make a decision on California's waiver request within the next few months. The agency must first complete an independent evaluation of data the state has provided in support of its petition.
Then if EPA determines that statutory conditions exist for granting a waiver, it must still hold at least a 30-day comment period before taking final action.
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