UPDATE 1-EPA gets final E15 test data, decision on fuel soon

Mon Jan 3, 2011 10:19pm GMT

* EPA expected to issue E15 decision in January

* E15 could be used in more than half current vehicles (Adds service station owners concerns about E15, oil refiners lawsuit against E15)

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has received final test results from the Energy Department on how older vehicles perform using gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, the agency said on Monday.

The EPA said it is now on track to issue a decision this month on whether so-called E15 gasoline is safe for vehicles built during the 2001 to 2006 model years. U.S. gasoline now contains up to 10 percent ethanol.

"We've received and are reviewing all of the testing information from DOE," the EPA said. The Energy Department sent the remaining test data last week.

The decision on a higher ethanol blend was expected in December, but the EPA delayed it after the Energy Department said it needed to redo several tests because some of the cars were not properly prepared. The additional testing was not directly related to the E15 fuel.

EPA in October approved E15 gasoline for cars and trucks made during 2007 and later.

Many service stations are reluctant to offer E15 because most fuel pumps have not been certified to sell it. Service station owners could also be sued by consumers if E15 harms the engines of cars, boats and chainsaws.

The EPA plans to put E15 labels on gasoline pumps so drivers will not confuse it with other blends.

Meanwhile, the trade group for U.S. oil refiners asked a federal appeals court on Monday to overturn the EPA's October decision on E15.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association said the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to approve E15 gasoline in some engines but not in others.

The International Liquid Terminals Association and the Western States Petroleum Association joined the oil refiners trade group in the lawsuit.

"The organizations challenging EPA's decision believe the agency has acted unlawfully in its rush to allow a 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline without adequate testing and without following proper procedures. As a result, we had no choice but to take this issue to court," the association said.

Allowing E15 gasoline in cars and truck built since the 2001 model year would cover more than half the vehicles now on U.S. highways.

The higher blend would benefit ethanol producers. More ethanol is already required to come on the market as federal law requires the amount of ethanol blended into to U.S. gasoline to gradually increases from 12 billion gallons last year to 12.6 billion gallons this year and then to 15 billion gallons by 2015. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio and Jim Marshall)