EPA's progress questioned on addressing 'boutique' fuels

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, May 9 -- As the US House Energy and Commerce Committee prepared for two days of hearings on gasoline prices, supplies, and formulations, its chief minority member questioned the Environmental Protection Agency's progress on studying so-called "boutique" fuels.

EPA announced May 4 that a taskforce would study the proliferation of specialized motor fuel formulations nine months after a provision in the 2005 Energy Policy Act required it to take this step, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) charged on May 8.

Noting in a letter to EPA Adm. Stephen L. Johnson that the agency's press release said it was setting an ambitious schedule to provide President George W. Bush a final report in 6-8 weeks, Dingell said that the schedule may be ambitious because EPA waited so long to get started.

He said that EPA also apparently did not determine the total number of fuels that would be approved and to publish the list in the Federal Register within 90 days of the law's passage last August. Dingell also said that EPA apparently did meet the law's deadline to promulgate regulations covering temporary fuel waivers within three months of enactment.

In announcing the taskforce's formation in response to Bush's directive a few days earlier, Johnson said that boutique fuels deliver substantial environmental benefits at relatively low costs but can pose challenges to regional fuel distribution systems.

He said that the taskforce would review overall progress, summarize EPA's 2001 boutique fuel report and other actions to date, report on the current use and utility of boutique fuels, get stakeholders' opinions and feedback, and examine possible fuel supply system changes.

Dingell said in his letter to Johnson that an expert from EPA is scheduled to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee later this week and submitted questions for the witness to consider in advance.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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