While promoters of ethanol have been pushing for more E-85 gas pumps, a state lawsuit alleges two northeast Iowa convenience stores were illegally using the product. Bob Brammer of the Iowa Attorney General’s office says the Pronto Markets in Sumner and Fairbank has the 85-percent ethanol blend gas mixed into other pumps.
Brammer says a routine inspection by the Iowa Department of Agriculture found a higher level of ethanol than should be present in the tanks at the stations. Brammer says the gas pumps were not labeled for E-85 fuel, and state officials do not believe it was an accident.
Brammer says they believe it was a consumer fraud violation where the owners knowingly blended the E-85 fuels into other tanks made for other blends of fuel and not labeled for the E-85 fuel. Brammer says selling the E-85 fuel at the same price as the 10-percent blend of ethanol, or non-ethanol gas, can net a station a good profit.
Brammer says the E-85 fuel can be purchased at a substantially lower price than the other fuels because of tax breaks and incentives given to E-85 fuels. Brammer says the suit is against Jerry Fratzke of Jesup, the owner of the two Pronto stores.
Brammer says they filed the consumer fraud lawsuit in Black Hawk County and got a temporary restraining order. He says they’ve also asked for a permanent restraining order to prevent any other violations and have asked for penalties of up to 40-thousand dollars per violation.
Brammer says the suit alleges the two stores bought at least 25-hundred gallons of E-85 blended ethanol fuel from March 10 to June 6, 2008, and then sold the fuel as either unleaded regular gas or 10-percent ethanol-enhanced fuel. Brammer says there was a 33-cent difference in the price of the E-85 and the other fuels.