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Marine industry unhappy with EPA delay on fuel standard

The National Marine Manufacturers Association and Mercury Marine are among the groups voicing disappointment over the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement Friday that it will delay until 2015 the final rule that will tell fuel refiners how much ethanol must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

The EPA said it won’t finalize 2014 percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard until next year. Those standards dictate how much ethanol must be blended into the fuel supply to meet criteria set forth by the fuel standard.

“Finalization of the 2014 standards rule has been significantly delayed,” the EPA wrote in its notice on Friday. “Due to this delay, and given ongoing consideration of the issues presented by the commenters, EPA is not in a position to finalize the 2014 RFS standards rule before the end of the year.”

Last year, the agency reduced the levels of ethanol to be blended in the fuel supply for the first time since the fuel standard was passed in 2005 and expanded in 2007. The move was applauded by some, such as the boating industry, but decried by others, such as ethanol lobbyists, saying Congress was backtracking on environmental legislation.

The fuel standard requires the amount of biofuels used in the fuel supply to numerically increase each year despite the fact that U.S. fuel consumption is actually dropping. The target was to hit 36 billion gallons of ethanol and biofuels by 2022.

The NMMA and food, petroleum and environmental groups have warned that the goal is unrealistic, dangerous for engines and could cause safety problems down the road.

The EPA, though often scapegoated as having made the requirement, is actually required by Congress to adhere to the Renewable Fuel Standard, NMMA director of environmental and safety compliance John McKnight told Trade Only at the time.

“By punting its decision, the EPA has done nothing to alleviate concerns regarding the continued availability of low-ethanol fuel blends relied upon by the boating industry,” NMMA director of federal and legal affairs Nicole Vasilaros said in a statement.

“Consumers remain at high risk,” she said. “We have serious, well-documented and data-driven concerns with the safety of high-ethanol fuel blends, which have been proven to cause damage to marine engines. This damage hurts manufacturers during a time of important economic recovery. The RFS is a broken law which sets unrealistic fuel mandates and requires a long-term fix from Congress.”

“While we’re encouraged that the EPA is not blindly implementing flawed standards, we support the NMMA’s position that high-ethanol fuel blends have been proven to cause damage to marine engines, and now is the time for decisive refinement of the strategy rather than additional study,” Mercury Marine vice president of sale and marketing Randy Caruana said.