The Minnesota Trucking Association and others are suing the state trying to end its 10% biodiesel mandate.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the lawsuit claims the state mandate is in conflict with federal clean air and renewable fuels laws. It seeks a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the existing mandate and wants to bar any future expansion of a higher biodiesel ratio.
Minnesota was the first state in the nation to require diesel sold at the pump to have a minimum amount of biodiesel blended into the fuel. The first winter that law went into effect, there was a rash of problems with cold starting and other issues, which were later blamed on problems with biodiesel quality. The mandate started out at 2% and later rose to 5%.
Last summer, the blend mandate jumped to 10%, or B10, which is higher than some diesel engine manufacturers recommend, contends the lawsuit. The biodiesel level remains at B5 from October to March to reduce the risk cold-weather gelling. Starting in 2018, if certain conditions are met, all diesel fuel sold in the state during the warm-weather months must contain at least 20% biodiesel (B20).
The suit alleges the mandate has caused the price of fuel in the state to rise.
Daniel Savaloja, chairman of the Minnesota Trucking Association, wrote in an op-ed piece in the Star-Tribune last summer that the mandate could add $15 to $30 per truck each week to the base cost of diesel fuel.
To avoid breakdowns, he said, truckers spend money on a number of preventive measures, including making more frequent filter changes, adding heating devices, adding anti-gelling agents to fuel, and adding No. 1 diesel, which costs significantly more and gets poorer fuel mileage.
Kyle Kottke, general manager of Kottke Trucking in Buffalo Lake, Minn., told Watchdog.org that his trucks fuel outside of the state as often as possible. “We buy cheaper outside of Minnesota. And, second of all, we don’t have to deal with the hassles that come with biodiesel and the issues that they bring us during the colder four to six months of the year.”
Kottke estimates avoiding Minnesota’s biodiesel blend saves 4 or 5 cents per gallon on average, adding up to as much as $50,000 a year for his fleet.
However, Kane Transport, a central Minnesota firm with a fleet of 125 trucks, told Watchdog.org that it has no problem with biodiesel and even uses a 20% biodiesel blend several months a year.
Truckinginfo asked John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, why the group felt the time was right for a lawsuit in an issue it's been battling for some time. "A year ago we had a bill in the state legislature that would have removed the B10 mandate and prevented going to B20, and that legisltaion failed," he explained. "We didn't have enough traction in the legislature to resolve this so we decided to go the litigation route."
Other plaintiffs in the suit are the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.
In filing the lawsuit, the coalition issued the following statement:
"Given that the average age of a motor vehicle in Minnesota is 11.2 years, the state's Biodiesel Content Mandate causes significant risk of harm to consumers and a broad range of businesses since most diesel-fueled passenger cars and light trucks were not designed for – and are not warranted to run on – biofuel blends of 10 or 20 percent.
"Use of such fuel blends could result in increased maintenance costs and engine problems for certain vehicle owners. These problems could impact manufacturers and dealers in the state through lost sales and increased warranty claims.
"In addition, through this mandate Minnesota is forcing the sale of what has historically been more costly fuel. The state is purposefully denying access to needed fuels recommended for use in many diesel vehicles while likely raising fueling costs for all diesel vehicles, including those heavy-duty trucks that are designed to accommodate higher blends.
"This lawsuit seeks to restore consumer choice.""