Wisconsin Sues EPA Over High Gas Prices
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Source: ENN News
Wisconsin Sues EPA Over High Gas Prices
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2000 (ENS) - Wisconsin Governor
Tommy Thompson and state lawmakers have filed a legal petition
asking a judge to review the federal requirement for cleaner burning
gasoline in the state. The suit is the latest move by Midwestern
legislators angered by rising gasoline prices in the region.
In a three paragraph legal petition filed in the
U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia, Wisconsin argues that "extreme prices"
- far above those found elsewhere in the U.S. -
raise questions about the "economic, scientific,
environmental and regulatory bases" for the
clean gas regulations.
A Clean Air Act rule that took effect June 1 requires the sale of
reformulated gasoline (RFG) supplemented with ethanol in several
smoggy Midwestern regions, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This new
version of RFG burns more cleanly than older versions using other
additives, reducing tailpipe emissions that lead to smog and other
Since June 1, prices have risen sharply in Milwaukee, Chicago, Illinois
and other areas.
"Today, for the first time in Wisconsin's history, one house of the
Legislature is suing the federal government on behalf of our families,"
said Scott Jensen, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker. "Sadly, we have no
other choice. The Environmental Protection Agency has refused to
listen to the nation's scientists and economists. They have refused
to listen to our state's elected representatives. And they have
refused to listen to the families of southeastern Wisconsin who have
struggled to pay these high gas prices."
The EPA maintains that the gas prices are independent of the RFG
requirement. EPA Administrator Carol Browner has said she is unwilling
to grant a temporary waiver to any state based on rising prices. The
agency is continuing to investigate the reasons for the price hike.
"We know from our initial investigation that the problem does not
stem from reformulated gasoline," said EPA spokesperson Dave
Wisconsin argues that
events since the EPA’s
adopted, including price
hikes, pipeline problems
and unexpected patent
royalties on the newly
formulated fuel, change the situation enough to warrant a reopening
of the RFG rulemaking process.
"The facts as they stand today do not justify the EPA's RFG rules and
clearly outline a credible challenge to these regulations," said
Representative Steve Foti, Majority Leader of the Wisconsin
The state’s petition asks the appeals court to order EPA to reopen
the rules for review. Because EPA is likely to get a 30 day to 60 day
period to respond to the petition, it is unlikely that the petition will
have an immediate impact on gas prices, regardless of the outcome
Wisconsin residents want results now. More that 15,000 state
citizens submitted letters, faxes and email messages supporting the
state’s case, and these documents were filed along with the petition.
"These families are asking for cheaper, cleaner gas that won't burden
their family budgets," Jensen said. "The EPA required our families to
use an additive and a manufacturing process that turned out to be
much more expensive than projected."
In the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, gas prices have risen by as much
as 50 cents a gallon. The average price for a gallon of gas across
Wisconsin this week was $1.86, about 18 cents higher than the
national average, according to the American Automobile Association.
Neighboring states are also taking steps to deal
with rising gas prices. In Indiana, Governor Frank
O'Bannon, a Democrat, has suspended the state’s
five percent gasoline sales tax, effective July 1,
for up to 60 days to give residents of his state
some relief. On Wednesday, the governors of
Wisconsin and Illinois testified before Congress
that there states need immediate relief from high gas prices.
Governor Thompson, a Republican, told the House Judiciary
Committee that he blames the Clinton administration's "overbearing
environmental policies" for rising prices.
"This is a problem borne of the federal government," Thompson said,
"a problem that must be solved by the federal government. The
administration has refused to give us any relief."
"If Carol Browner would simply give us a waiver for the two months
left of summer, drivers would see at least a quarter off the price of
gas immediately," Thompson said.
Illinois Governor George Ryan, a Republican, joined Thompson in
asking the EPA for a temporary waiver from RFG rules.
In testimony Wednesday before the House Commerce Committee,
EPA Administrator Browner said again that RFG is not to blame for
higher gas prices. "We know that the cleaner burning gasoline is not
the problem. We know ethanol is not the problem," said Browner. "It's
got to be something else."
Browner charged that wholesale gasoline prices
began falling after the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) was asked to investigate possible price
gouging. But FTC official Richard Parker testified
that no evidence has been found yet of price
fixing by oil companies.
"I have no evidence as I sit here today of collusion," said Parker.
Browner also pointed out the air quality benefits of the RFG rules,
noting that the Clean Air Act requirement has resulted in annual
reductions of smog-forming pollutants equivalent to removing 16
million cars from the road.
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