Farm, biofuels and public health groups challenge EPA on SAFER
June 30, 2020
A coalition of ethanol, agriculture and public interest groups today challenged the Trump administration’s recent fuel efficiency rule on the grounds that it downplays the harm from reduced emission standards, ignores the efficiency and health benefits of higher ethanol blends and fails to realize the promise of increased octane in gasoline.
The rule in question, known as Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Vehicle Rule (SAFER), was finalized on April 30, 2020, reversing an Obama-era rule that called for significant improvements in vehicle efficiency. Issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it established a 1.5% increase in efficiency each year for light-duty vehicles, rather than the 5% increase in the previous rule. In the notice of proposed rulemaking, EPA requested information on octane levels and how they could be increased in accordance with the Clean Air Act, but ultimately failed to address these concerns in the final rule.
In response to EPA’s failure to credibly consider and advance mid-level ethanol fuel blends as an alternative to conventional fuels, the groups filed a petition for review in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
The legal challenge, led by National Farmers Union (NFU), also includes the Governors Biofuels Coalition, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Environment and Energy Study Institute, several NFU state and regional divisions including Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), and the Urban Air Initiative.
“There is strong evidence that ethanol can improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while providing new markets for farmers and bolstering rural economies,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “Given their benefits, NFU advocated a clear path to adoption of mid-level ethanol blends in our earlier comments – which EPA all but ignored. As such, NFU is well-positioned to advance this legal challenge against the agency.”
Additionally, in accordance with Title II of the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to reduce toxics in gasoline to the greatest extent possible as new technologies become available.
“It’s been shown by many studies that higher ethanol blends of fuel, such as E30, produce fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases than lower blends,” Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said. “We’re calling on EPA once again to increase these blends, for cleaner air, better fuel efficiency and more reliance on American-grown fuels. We don’t need to wait for new technology because we already have the resources we need in biofuels.”
The petitioners believe this action will require EPA to defend a flawed cost-benefit analysis and faulty assumptions regarding the emissions and harm associated with the toxic and carcinogenic aromatic compounds refiners currently use for octane in conventional fuels.
# # #
Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)