prudential standing

Post image for Ethanol Litigation: Another Powerful Dissent by Judge Kavanaugh

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied by 7-1 a petition for a full-court re-hearing of its 2-1 decision last summer to dismiss litigation challenging EPA’s approval of the sale of E15 at retail motor fuel pumps. E15 is a blend of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol.

In both decisions, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was the sole dissenter, and both times he trounces the majority on the facts and statutory logic.

In a previous post, I reviewed Kavanaugh’s dissent in the August 2012 decision. Herewith a brief recap:

  • The 2-1 majority held that petitioners — refiners and livestock producers — would not be injured by the EPA’s grant of a waiver authorizing the sale of E15 and thus lack standing to challenge the agency. The majority somehow missed the obvious.
  • There being no commercial substitute for ethanol to meet the ever-increasing production quota established by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), EPA approval of E15 is a de facto mandate on refiners to increase the blend from E10 to E15 — a roughly 50% increase from about 14 billion gallons to 21 billion gallons annually. That will necessarily impose a cost on refiners. 
  • In addition, because virtually all U.S. ethanol is made from corn, approving E15 will increase the demand for and price of corn, imposing a cost on livestock producers, who purchase billions of bushels annually to feed their hogs, cattle, and poultry.
  • Clearly, EPA approval of E15 injures both petitioner groups, so the Court should have reviewed the petitions on the merits.
  • Section 211(f) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) prohibits the EPA from approving the sale of any fuel additive that causes or contributes to the failure of emission control systems in any vehicle manufactured after 1974. 
  • By the EPA’s own admission, E15 can contribute to emission control failures in vehicles manufactured during model years 1975 through 2000.
  • Therefore, the EPA lacks authority to approve the sale of E15.

Kavanaugh’s dissent in Tuesday’s decision reiterates those points but also adds some illuminating refinements. [click to continue…]