EPA Pushes Back on Urban Air Challenge of Faulty Emissions Model
September 13, 2018: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to acknowledge it used faulty science and blending practices to paint an inaccurate picture of ethanol emissions in a long-awaited response to the Urban Air Initiative (UAI).
In January 2017, UAI, the states of Nebraska and Kansas, and the Energy Future Coalition submitted a Request for Corrections (RFC) challenging EPA and specifically the Office of Transportation and Air Quality on a number of issues relating to the development of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model. The request was based on UAI’s finding that the EPAct fuel effects study that provided the inputs for that model were not accurate, reliable or unbiased with a particular emphasis on the fact that the agency used petroleum industry personnel to design the tests, resulting in a negative emissions profile for ethanol.
It took more than a year and a half to respond. On August 31st, the EPA sent a letter rejecting the request for correction and effectively doubled down on its position that the study was “objectively designed” and the fuels were “representative of market fuels”.
Yet, EPA emails UAI obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the collusion between EPA and the petroleum industry in the design of the test fuels and the match blending of certain fuel additives and properties. The resulting model, according to UAI, suggests ethanol creates negative emissions that in reality are due to match blending in the laboratory.
States are required to use this model in developing state implementation plans for air quality standards. With the faulty data inputs, ethanol blends are blamed for higher emissions when the laboratory, or match blending, added petroleum additives are the true culprit.
“We have shown without a doubt that splash blending or simply adding ethanol to finished gasoline reduces a wide range of criteria pollutants and replaces harmful toxic compounds”, said UAI Technical Director Steve VanderGriend. “EPA’s refusal to use real world market survey data as the basis for blending test fuels results in emission profiles that unfairly penalize ethanol.”
The states of Nebraska and Kansas were party to the request because the faulty data directly impacts their agricultural products and the ability to expand the ethanol market.
“We are going to continue to call on EPA to recognize the best available science and stop letting petroleum interests design tests without significant input from the ethanol industry,” said VanderGriend. “If the MOVES Model is not updated and real world fuels are not tested, ethanol will continue to be limited and public health will continue to be impacted by dangerous gasoline emissions.”