A number of agriculture and biofuels groups have sued the Trump administration for virtually leaving higher ethanol-blended fuels out of the picture in the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Vehicle Rule, or SAFER, finalized on April 30.
On Monday, National Farmers Union, the Governors Biofuel Coalition, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Environment and Energy Study Institute, several NFU state and regional divisions, ethanol producers Glacial Lakes Energy and Siouxland Ethanol, along with the Urban Air Initiative filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In a news release on Tuesday, the National Farmers Union said the action was taken because the fuel-efficiency rulemaking "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."
As doubts about the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard have mounted, the ethanol industry has begun to focus on the potential for expanding the availability and use of higher ethanol blends to combat air emissions and pollution.
The SAFER rule issued by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established a 1.5% increase in efficiency each year for light-duty vehicles. The NFU said the rule falls short of the 5% increase in the existing rule the new rule replaces.
EPA requested information on octane levels and how they could be increased in accordance with the Clean Air Act, in its original notice on the rulemaking, but "ultimately failed to address these concerns in the final rule," NFU said.
"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," NFU President Rob Larew, said in a news release.
"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, NFU said 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.
"Higher ethanol blends are that technology, and they are available today," South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke, said in a statement.
"We know that widespread implementation of these blends would result greatly reduce toxics as well as provide a significant octane boost."
The news release said petitioners believe the legal action would 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 traditional fossil fuels.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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