Enviro Asks Federal Court to Throw Out RFS Volumes for 2020-2022, Lacked ESA Review

Source: By Todd Neeley, Progressive Farmer • Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) — The Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to vacate EPA’s June 2022 final Renewable Fuel Standard rule, alleging the agency has failed to conduct an Endangered Species Act review of the RFS.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has twice issued rulings that EPA had not conducted an ESA review of other final RFS rules prior.

The CBD asked the court to vacate the latest rule for fear it is damaging endangered species habitats.

“By mandating increases in biofuel volumes — including a record minimum volume for transportation sector use of roughly 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 5.63 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2022 — EPA’s final rule worsens water pollution and habitat loss, harming threatened and endangered species including pallid sturgeon, whooping crane, sea turtles, and dozens of other species dependent on healthy river ecosystems and ever-shrinking native grasslands,” the group said in a motion filed with the court.

“While EPA acknowledged its obligation to assess the impacts of its final rule on imperiled species and protected habitat, it has said only that it intends to consult at some point in the future, perhaps many years from now, and almost certainly after the final rule expires. This is not a one-off error but part of a track record of shirking mandatory duties under the ESA.”

The Biden administration, however, restored corn ethanol to 15 billion gallons for 2022, with total biofuel gallons set at 20.63 billion gallons. The 2022 number was set slightly lower than the proposed 20.77 billion gallons in December 2021.

Despite pleas from the ethanol industry, EPA reset lower corn-ethanol volumes at 12.5 billion gallons for the COVID-19 shutdown year of 2020. The agency retroactively cut nearly 3 billion gallons from 2020’s total biofuel gallons, finalized at 17.13 billion gallons.

The agency also retroactively cut 2020 volumes for advanced biofuels such as biomass-based diesel from 5.09 billion gallons to 4.63 billion.

In addition, EPA finalized the advanced biofuels volume at 5.05 billion gallons for 2021, a drop from 5.2 billion gallons in the December proposal. The agency set the 2022 advanced number at 5.63 billion gallons, also a small cut from 5.77 billion proposed last December.

EPA also added a 250-million-gallon “supplemental obligation” to the volumes proposed for 2022. The agency said it intends to add another 250 million gallons in 2023 to address the remand of the 2014 to 2016 annual rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In addition, EPA officially denied all pending small-refinery exemptions to the RFS and announced a proposed rulemaking to change the exemptions process.

Read more on DTN:

“EPA’s RFS Volumes Include Ethanol Cuts,” https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

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