Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Press Release

Lawsuit Challenges EPA's Damaging Renewable Fuels Standard


The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel volume requirements for corn ethanol and other biofuels for 2020, 2021 and 2022. Earlier this month the EPA set the 2022 required minimum volume for transportation sector use at roughly 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 5.63 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.

The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s failure to fully assess the impacts to endangered species from land conversion and additional pesticide and fertilizer use to meet these higher-volume targets. Despite two prior rulings from the D.C. Circuit holding that the EPA failed to properly assess endangered species, the agency again failed to act, claiming that it had begun the process of assessing endangered species but offering no timeline or commitment to ever finish the consultation process.

“The ever-increasing amounts of corn grown to burn as fuel only exacerbate dead zones in the ocean, worsen water pollution, and drive endangered species closer to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “The renewable fuel program is a colossal boondoggle that gobbles up millions of acres of land. It’s a false solution to the climate crisis, delaying the urgent need to transition to electric vehicles.”

In its 2018 report to Congress, the EPA’s triennial report on the renewable fuel program concluded that 4 million to 7.8 million acres of land had been converted to growing corn and soybeans since the enactment of the program and that the rate of land conversion was higher in areas closer to ethanol biorefineries.

Because this corn is grown for fuel, there are fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which run off into nearby streams and rivers. This additional pollution harms endangered species like pallid sturgeon in the Mississippi River and worsens ocean dead zones, hurting endangered sea turtles and other marine animals.

In addition to converting more land from natural habitat to cropland, the production of biofuels can compete with crops grown for food production. According to the EPA, the proportion of corn grown for ethanol increases each year, with 40% of all corn grown diverted for fuel. With the conflict in Ukraine and reduction in wheat production, global food supplies are perilously low. Continued support for additional biofuel production only worsens the collective ability to feed people in the United States and around the world.

“The EPA should have ratcheted back the renewable fuel program instead of increasing the volumes of biofuels required to be produced,” said Hartl. “This is just another difficult blow to endangered species like pallid sturgeon and sea turtles that already struggle to survive due to the pollution of our nation’s rivers, estuaries and coastal areas. It’s sad that the EPA caved to the powerful agricultural interests that are the only ones to benefit from this terribly ineffective program.”


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

Permian Basin Leaking 14 Times More Methane Than EPA Estimates: Study

"Applying this estimate to all gas gathering pipelines nationwide for illustrative purposes would increase the EPA inventory estimate for the entire natural gas system by 27%," noted co-authors of a new study.

Julia Conley ·

Coalition Representing 24 Million Workers Demands Senate Vote on PRO Act Before Midterms

"Passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act would level the playing field for these workers, and show people which side the Senate Democrats are on," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

US Should Respond to OPEC by Reinstating Oil Export Ban, Says Green Group

"It is no surprise that the international oil cartel is seeking to maintain high prices," said a campaigner with Food & Water Watch. "Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling."

Jake Johnson ·

Coalition Says Biden Should Offer This Many Offshore Drilling Leases: Zero

"We cannot continue down a path that overlooks the irreversible damage of Big Oil," warned one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Not a Blacklist' But a 'Whitewash': EU Slammed for Letting Tax Havens Off the Hook

"How can anyone give this list any credibility?" asked Oxfam's tax expert after the European Union removed infamous safe harbor Bermuda from a roster that also exempts E.U. members.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo