The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

EPA Renewable Fuels 'Set Rule' to Destroy Habitat, Kill Endangered Species, Degrade Water Quality


The Environmental Protection Agency released its long-delayed proposal today establishing fuel volume requirements for corn ethanol and other biofuels for 2023, 2024 and 2025. The so-called "set rule" was the EPA's first opportunity to set such volume requirements at any level, including below the congressionally mandated floors in place over the previous decade.

Despite this nearly unfettered flexibility, the EPA chose to further increase biofuel volume requirements. Today's proposal would require approximately 15 billion gallons of conventional corn ethanol for each of the next three years, plus 5.8 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2023, 6.6 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2024, and 7.4 billion gallons in 2025.

"Billions of gallons of biofuels means millions of acres of additional habitat destroyed, more water pollution and ocean dead zones, and greater harm to endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The renewable fuel program remains a colossal boondoggle that only benefits agribusinesses. Despite the rhetoric, biofuels aren't a solution to the climate crisis and actually delay the transition to electric vehicles. It's unfortunate that the EPA continues to cower before the powerful special interests that support this ludicrous program."

In its 2018 report on the renewable fuel program to Congress, the EPA concluded that 4 million to 7.8 million acres of land had already been converted to growing corn and soybeans since the program's enactment -- 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 such as the pallid sturgeon in the Mississippi River and worsens ocean dead zones, harming endangered sea turtles and other species.

Despite two prior rulings from the D.C. Circuit holding that the EPA failed to properly assess the renewable fuel program's impacts on endangered species, and despite litigation challenging the EPA's failure to protect endangered species in its 2022 fuels standard, the EPA still has not complied with the Endangered Species Act in the set rule.

"The EPA continues to pretend that its volume requirements don't increase the demand for biofuels, which is ludicrous," said Hartl. "If the EPA's renewable fuel program disappeared tomorrow, and it absolutely should, the United States could instead focus all its efforts on real solutions to the climate crisis. And we'd improve the health of our rivers and oceans and save endangered species in the process."

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.

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