Recent Press Releases

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune along with a bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter today to Underwriter Laboratories (UL) CEO Keith Williams requesting the approval of fuel pumps capable of dispensing higher blends of ethanol. The bipartisan letter comes as a result of UL's decision last year to suspend its authorization of E85 dispensers due to concerns about the potential corrosive effects that E85 may have on fuel dispenser components. E85 is fuel that contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

"For years now, Congress has made ethanol an important part of our nation's energy policy. As we work to promote E85 and higher grades of ethanol like E20, fuel that contains 20 percent ethanol, it is critical that UL provide the necessary certification for fuel dispensers to deliver alternative fuels at local gas stations. I urge UL to act in a timely manner to certify these pumps and remove this unnecessary barrier to the use of higher blends of ethanol," said Thune.

Presently, there are over 1,100 E85 pumps in operation nationwide. While UL has no evidence to suggest that there are problems with existing E85 pumps, on October 5, 2006, UL suspended its certification of multi-product fuel dispenser components and announced that it would embark on an extended recertification procedure. While UL certification isn't required for the operation of E85 pumps, Fire Marshalls and State and County officials regularly rely on UL's certification regarding the acceptability of refueling components that are used in the marketplace.

Senator Thune has been a leading advocate of expanded use of alternative fuels such as ethanol. Earlier this year, Senator Thune introduced a bipartisan bill (S. 331) with Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO), which would provide grants up to $30,000 to gasoline retailers who install alternative fuel infrastructure such as E85, bio-diesel and other alternative fuels. This legislation is needed because less than one percent of all gas pumps nationwide (roughly 1,100) offer alternative fuels such as E85 ethanol.

Full text of the letter appears below:

March 19, 2007

Mr. Keith Williams
President and CEO
Underwriters Laboratory
333 Pfingsten Road
Northbrook, Illinois 60062-2096

Dear Mr. Williams:

We are writing in regard to the recent decision by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) to rescind its previously-issued certifications for components of E85 refueling systems, and the new efforts by UL to establish E85 component and fuel dispenser testing protocols.

UL initiated a review of the safety of multi-product fuel dispenser components and approved their use several years ago. On October 5, 2006, UL rescinded the certification for these components and announced that it would embark on an extended recertification procedure for the dispensers themselves.
We understand that re-evaluation of material testing protocol is not uncommon and indeed should occur in the normal course of time, and we appreciate that you and your staff have undertaken a new effort to establish E85 component and dispenser testing protocol. We are concerned, however, why this initiative is being undertaken after the withdrawal of the prior approvals - - especially when UL has acknowledged no documented reports of corrosion for UL Listed or Recognized components used with E85, no field incidents related to UL Listed or Recognized components used with E85, and no reported safety issues associated with Listed or Recognized components used with E85.
Moreover, the actions taken by UL have not provided equipment manufacturers, ethanol producers, and the motoring public with adequate certainty and clarity as to the timetable for completion of the process. We know and agree that any device that displays the UL imprimatur must have its characteristics fully reviewed and tested according to key standards and procedures. We request your assurances that both timetable and testing are not mutually exclusive goals.

Congress has taken significant steps to transition to alternative fuels such as E-85: setting mandatory targets for increased ethanol use, enacting a federal income tax credit to offset the cost of installation of E85 fueling systems, and funding efforts to expand E-85 refueling infrastructure nationwide, of which now there are more than 1,100 pumps. UL is essential to these transition efforts - - UL has tested products for public safety for more than a century and has earned its well-deserved reputation as an unbiased gatekeeper for the introduction of American innovation in the marketplace.

As a result of UL's decision to rescind its previously issued certifications, however, fire marshals, code administrators, and other officials having jurisdiction may block the installation of new E85 fueling systems. Potential vendors of E85 may have significant problems installing new equipment as a result of risk management issues associated with no UL Listing.

Accordingly, we ask UL to comment on the process of the issuance of certifications provided to E85 components prior to the October 5, 2006 announcement, and the subsequent withdrawal of certifications; to establish an estimated timetable or list of milestones required to complete your updated testing and analysis; to identify what equipment or facilities would be required to complete this work and the time periods associated with those activities; and to issue a revised draft protocol to industry as soon as practicable.

We look forward to working with you and your highly respected organization to ensure that American motorists are able to enjoy a wide range of fuels choices in a safe and convenient manner.