Sierra Club Announces Legal Challenge To EPA Over Failure To Analyze and Report Renewable Fuel Standard

The Sierra Club has filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for its chronic failure to conduct the required environmental impact analysis on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The EPA is over three years overdue in its last review of impacts for Congress and six years overdue on its air quality impact analysis, that was due within 18 months of the law’s passage. Both are necessary to determine the extent of the RFS program’s adverse air quality impacts and inform the EPA in its annual setting of renewable fuels volumes.“It is unlawful for the EPA to so blatantly disregard its own rules and mandates when it comes to protecting our communities and environment,” said Sierra Club Staff Attorney Devorah Ancel. “The current Renewable Fuel Standard program has skirted by for nearly a decade without a proper analysis, all the while opening the door for unchecked land conversion for ethanol production, which destroys native habitat and harms sensitive species on a massive scale. Today’s notice serves as a signal to Administrator Pruitt that we will hold EPA to its obligations to protect communities and the environment.”

A recent investigation by EPA’s inspector general found that the agency had failed to meet these critical statutory deadlines. In response, the EPA promised to complete the Triennial Report by December 31, 2017 and the anti-backsliding air quality study by September 30, 2024 — 15 years after the law required the study to be completed. Given that ethanol production has skyrocketed in recent years and the loss of grasslands is expected to continue under the current RFS mandates, the EPA’s continuing establishment of RFS standards without the information on environmental and air quality impacts is particularly troubling.

The Sierra Club plans to file the lawsuit in 60 days. Read the notice of intent to sue here.

More about the Renewable Fuel Standard:

The Clean Air Act was amended in 2005 and 2007 to address the significant climate change-inducing emissions from the transportation sector with the goal of reducing and replacing gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels with significant quantities of renewable fuels. The amendments require the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct triennial reports to Congress on environmental and conservation impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard and an anti-backsliding analysis to determine if mitigation measures are necessary to address any adverse air quality impacts. The law requires specific amounts of biofuels, mostly corn-based ethanol, to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year. The EPA sets annual goals of billions of gallons, but has been doing so without analyzing the environmental impacts and reporting them to Congress. These impacts include converting millions of acres of native grasslands to cropland, with attendant loss of habitat and harm to sensitive wildlife species, increased use of pesticides and water pollution, and release of carbon into the atmosphere. In addition, the RFS program is undermining the federal Conservation Reserve Program which was designed to encourage farmers to preserve grasslands in their natural state, while the RFS program encourages conversion to corn for use in gasoline.

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