NMMA, Industry Allies Represented During Senate Committee Hearing on E15 Expansion

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing yesterday, on Senator Deb Fischer’s (R-Neb.) Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S. 517) to expand the sale of fuel blends with 15 percent ethanol (E15) through the summer months, making it available year-round. During which, testimony was heard from a diverse panel of experts, including: Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman; Sheetz Executive VP Mike Lorenz; Briggs and Stratton President and CEO Todd Teske; Clean Air Task Force Senior Counsel Jonathan Lewis; and Ecoengineering Inc. Principal Engineer Janet Yanowitz.

NMMA has been against E15 in the marketplace for years due to the serious threat E15 poses to boater safety, by way of the proven damage it causes marine engines. Prior to the hearing, NMMA and partners (MRAA, CSP, BoatU.S., TRCP and ASA) submitted a letter for the record outlining the industry’s concerns with the bill. A preview of the letter reads;

“While the title of S. 517 contains the word ‘choice’, passage of this legislation would effectively deny consumers choice at the pump, while also endangering their safety on the water. There are 12 million recreational vessels registered in the United States. Ninety-five percent of these vessels are fueled at retail automotive service stations, and are dependent on a safe and legal fuel supply to operate. Ensuring all consumers have access to approved fuels is absolutely critical to recreational boaters and anglers.”

Upon the start of the hearing, EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) referred in his initial questioning to our letter directly and the issues cited within it, as a serious cause of alarm for expanding E15 sales at our pumps. Among the testimony, highlights comprised of the following:

  • Todd Teske (Briggs and Stratton) whose company has conducted research on the impact of E15 to small engines, similar to the studies by NMMA member companies, and echoed many of the same concerns as the recreational boating industry. Teske listed the damage E15 causes to small engines and risk of misfueling consumers face at the pump, as top reasons for opposing the bill.
    • Of note, Teske did call attention to OPEI’s “Look Before You Pump Campaign,” which NMMA signed onto, as an example of the industry’s attempt to educate its consumers on the risk of using E15 in unapproved vessels; but a large-scale consumer education effort is needed and cannot fall solely on small engine manufacturers.
    • Teske also discussed the company’s study on isobutanol and their findings of it as a viable alternative to E15. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and EPW Minority Leader supported the promise of isobutanol.

The hearing was a result of the deal Senator Fischer and Barrasso struck back in May to overturn a rule on methane emissions, although it ultimately failed. NMMA will continue to monitor bill S. 517, sharing updates as they occur and remain active in legislative conversations on ethanol matters to best represent the boating industry’s interests.  If you have questions, please contact Nicole Vasilaros at nvasilaros@nmma.org or Mike Pasko at mpasko@nmma.org.