Biden sued for damages from biofuel production – News Block

By Tom Ozimek

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) biofuels program is doing more harm than good by killing endangered species, according to a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration.

The lawsuit (pdf), filed in mid-July in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), challenges EPA fuel volume requirements for corn ethanol and other biofuels through 2025.

The lawsuit alleges that the EPA did not fully assess the impacts of the biofuel program on endangered species from land conversion and the use of pesticides and fertilizers to meet its volume targets.

In early July, the agency set its minimum required volume for transportation sector use in 2023 at about 15 billion gallons for corn ethanol and just over 5.6 billion gallons for advanced biofuels.

The move was part of the new Renewable Fuels Standard, which increased the amount of biofuels US refiners must blend with the nation’s fuel supplies while maintaining lower mandates for homegrown corn-based ethanol.

The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington on March 23, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

The CBD alleges that the EPA, in setting its renewable fuels targets, failed to fully comply with the Endangered Species Act by failing to complete consultations with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to address harm to endangered species and water quality, while exacerbating ocean dead zones.

“It is distressing that the EPA has used every dirty trick in the book to prevent an honest assessment of the massive environmental damage caused by its renewable fuels program,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times.

“These renewable fuel requirements mean millions more acres of land will be lost, our streams and rivers will be choked with more pollution, and coastal dead zones will continue to expand,” added Mr. Hartl.

“The Biden administration failed to even modestly reform this waste and fell apart again under political pressure from powerful special interests,” he added.

The EPA told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it would not comment on pending litigation.

More details

Under the Clean Air Act, the environmental agency could set its biofuel targets at whatever level it deems appropriate because the minimum requirements set by Congress ended in 2022.

The Center for Biological Diversity alleges that despite its new flexibility, the EPA ignored the “serious environmental damage of ever-increasing biofuel requirements” by requiring 15 billion gallons of conventional corn ethanol for each of the next three years, plus 5.9 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2023, increasing to 6.5 billion gallons in 2024 and 7.3 billion in 2025.

Part of the problem, according to the CBD, is that when corn is grown for fuel, there are fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which run off into streams and waterways. This pollution harms endangered species such as the Mississippi River pale sturgeon, while worsening ocean dead zones and harming sea turtles.

The EPA requested environmental impact consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service four days after it had already finished working on the new standards and sent the final rule to the White House for review.

“It is not surprising that the agencies have not been able to complete their analyzes in such a short time,” according to CBD.

Industry scorn over the EPA’s new biofuels final rule adds to the Biden administration’s biofuel woes.

industry reaction

In a statement announcing the new renewable fuel standards, the EPA said the final rule builds on the Biden administration’s “commitment to strengthen the nation’s energy independence, promote low-carbon fuels, and support farming communities.”

The agency said the new rule will strengthen national energy security by reducing dependence on foreign sources of oil by about 130,000 to 140,000 barrels of oil per day over the next three years.

Additionally, the anticipated value of energy security benefits to the US economy could reach as much as $192 million per year over the three-year period, according to EPA estimates.

However, industry stakeholder reactions to the final rule appear to be consistently negative.

“If EPA’s goal with the Renewable Fuels Standard is to maximize reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector, today’s final rule falls short of arbitrarily limiting conventional biofuel use to 15 billion gallons in 2024 and 2025 compared to the Agency’s proposal of 15.25 billion gallons for each of those years,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), in a statement.

Mr. Jennings argued that the higher blend targets would allow fuels like E15 and E85 to displace carbon pollution from gasoline more quickly, although the EPA proposal would “stop those opportunities.”

The administration’s cut to ethanol was a disappointment to other members of the biofuels industry, as well as agriculture advocates.

“While we are encouraged that the EPA continues to call for higher volumes of renewable fuels year-over-year, we are disappointed that the final RVOs (renewable volume obligations) are significantly lower than originally proposed for conventional and cellulosic biofuels,” Reid Wagner, executive director of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said in a statement.

“Our current ethanol infrastructure has the capacity today to easily meet the originally proposed 15.25 billion gallons of conventional biofuels, and a growing number of ethanol producers are implementing technologies to process corn kernel fiber into ethanol, which will soon contribute significant volumes of cellulosic biofuel,” he continued.

“Ensuring adequate RVOs aids in market development as the ethanol industry works to expand access to its products. By sidelining these low-carbon biofuel options, the EPA is leaving tools in the box that could be used to achieve its decarbonization goals.”

Elsewhere, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) called the EPA’s decision “inexplicable and unjustified” adding that it “misses a valuable opportunity to accelerate the transition of the energy sector to low or zero carbon fuels.”

“By eliminating 500 million gallons of lower-carbon, lower-cost fuel, today’s rule needlessly misses an opportunity to further improve US energy security and provide more affordable options at the pump for American drivers,” FRG President Geoff Cooper said in a statement.

The final rule also did not include widely anticipated avenues for electric vehicle manufacturers to generate credits under the new standards.

However, it did include incentives aimed at boosting the use of biogas from farms and landfills.

Katabella Roberts and Reuters contributed to this report.

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