EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard Increases Disregard Impacts To Wildlife And Critical Habitats

The EPA has once again failed to enforce the prohibition on conversion of native habitats to crop production

Washington, DC – Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced increases in the 2017 targets for renewable fuel volumes.

Following this announcement, Collin O’Mara, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation, commented today:

“When passing the Renewable Fuel Standard, Congress mandated that U.S. EPA adjust the statutory volume requirements downward whenever there are severe environment impacts. Yet today, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that the RFS is causing the destruction of grasslands and wetlands; the contamination of lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies; and the decimation of fish and wildlife populations, EPA once again failed to fulfill its legal obligations and instead increased the corn ethanol mandate.

Congress also mandated that EPA prevent the conversion of native habitats to crop production to meet the mandate—another legal obligation that the Agency is failing to enforce. 

EPA’s proposed rule fails to even reference the severe environmental impacts, including massive algal blooms in places like Lake Erie, the conversion of an estimated 1.6 million acres of native grassland habitat, or the depletion of our streams and groundwater sources, all of which must be addressed under the law. 

Having already lost millions of acres of grassland, forest, and wetlands in the decade since the Renewable Fuel Standard went into effect, promoting further expansion of the corn ethanol mandate is simply irresponsible and flouts the law—and is a devastating blow to vulnerable fish and wildlife which depend upon healthy wetlands and grasslands around the country. EPA must acknowledge these severe impacts and adjust the final rule accordingly.”

The proposed rulemaking announced by the EPA today to establish the volume mandates for 2017 under the RFS will not be finalized until this fall. The National Wildlife Federation will continue to push the agency to rethink its failed "aggregate compliance" approach to preventing land conversion and to lower the mandated levels for corn ethanol in the agency’s legal obligation to adjust volumes if there are severe environmental impacts.

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