EPA Takes Steps to Perpetuate Environmentally Damaging Biofuel Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Environmental Protection Agency today took two actions to boost biofuel production while failing to address concerns of environmental damage done by the federal biofuel mandate. First, it finalized its rule establishing the volumes required under the mandate for next year, and the separate level for biodiesel in 2021 as required by law. The rule maintains corn ethanol consumption at 15 billion gallons, the maximum allowed, while calling for a 17 percent increase in biodiesel consumption for 2021. Second, the agency pulled a proposal to implement a legal requirement that it establish new blending targets for the years 2020 through 2022. The new targets are required because blending levels of advanced and cellulosic biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard have failed to meet the levels set in law. The proposal had been languishing in the interagency review process since May.

“The EPA has once again ignored the science showing how large-scale biofuel production has led to loss of wildlife habitat, increased water pollution, and large carbon dioxide emissions from the soil both domestically and around the globe,” said David DeGennaro, policy specialist for climate and biofuels at the National Wildlife Federation. “These twin actions today prop up environmentally destructive biofuel production while obliterating the very guard rails contained in the law to fix these problems. The agency needs to meet its legal obligation to reset the standards in a way that protects the environment rather than harms it.”

The law that created the Renewable Fuel Standard allows EPA to reduce blending requirements if biofuel production results in severe environmental harm. Despite repeated calls from the National Wildlife Federation and other organizations to heed the growing scientific evidence of such harm to wildlife, water, and the climate — documented at great length in EPA’s own reports to Congress — the agency has never done so, and fails to do so again in the rule finalized today. Instead, the rule would increase biodiesel production, which has been shown to drive destruction of tropical rainforests. The law also requires the agency to reduce volume targets because of the inability of the market to produce advanced and cellulosic fuels, and to take environmental damage into consideration when doing so. By withdrawing that proposal from the approval process, the agency is breaking the law and missing an opportunity to right-size the program and ensure it is achieving its goals in a sustainable and responsible way.

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