A coalition of major farm, food and fuel industry trade groups has reportedly filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision to allow gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol (E15) to be sold for vehicles made in the 2007 model year or later. The coalition, which includes the American Petroleum Institute, apparently contends that tests to determine whether the blend will damage these cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs have not been completed. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA may not approve a new fuel additive unless it “will not cause or contribute to a failure of any emission control device or system.”

The industry interests also claim that EPA lacks the authority to grant a “partial waiver” to allow the fuel to be used in only some vehicles, saying the agency should not approve the fuel unless it is safe for all vehicles, not just the newer models.

EPA reportedly defended its decision as “sound, and the agency is confident that it will withstand legal challenge.” Auto makers object to the use of E15 and could, according to a news source, also challenge the agency’s decision in coming weeks. They, along with manufacturers of gasoline-fueled power equipment, such as lawnmowers and chain saws, are apparently concerned that they will be held liable if increased ethanol levels damage their equipment.

The coalition that filed the lawsuit on November 9, 2010, includes GMA, the American Meat Institute (AMI), National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Pork Producers, American Frozen Food Institute, and National Chicken Council. They are reportedly concerned that increasing the use of ethanol will make food more expensive by raising prices for corn. AMI’s president said in a press release, “For those consumers worried about climbing food prices, this decision will increase the amount of corn being diverted to our gas tanks and away from meat and poultry production. It’s unfortunate that EPA acted hastily and approved the use of E15, and now the American consumer will pay for it at the grocery store.”

A National Chicken Council spokesperson reportedly said, “With corn supplies very tight and ending inventories projected to be precariously low, corn costs continue to head toward historical highs. Any unnecessary and arbitrary action by the government that would exacerbate the situation for traditional corn users is very questionable and an unwise move at this time.” See The Wall Street Journal, Meatingplace.com, MeatPoultry.com, and Greenwire, November 9, 2010.