EPA recently announced that it has denied petitions filed by four environmental groups asking the agency to reconsider its definition of fuels that meet the renewable fuel standard, which definition was set forth in a final rule in 2010. 76 Fed. Reg. 15,855 (3/22/11). Congress expanded the renewable fuel standard in 2007 to require that the nation’s motor fuel supply include 36 billion gallons of ethanol or other renewable fuel by 2022.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which amended the Clean Air Act (CAA), required that for fuel to qualify as renewable, it had to reduce lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 20 percent compared to emissions from gasoline. It also said that feedstocks for the fuel cannot be produced on cropland that was created by cutting down forests or destroying other natural lands after the law was enacted in December 2007. EPA implemented these requirements in a final rule issued in March 2010. 75 Fed. Reg. 14,670 (3/26/10).

In their petitions, the environmental groups argued that EPA failed to require that producers verify that the crops and crop residues used to produce renewable fuel comply with applicable land-use restrictions. They also said the agency did not properly consider whether the increased use of biofuels in the United States could reduce the global price of oil and thus increase the use of petroleum-based fuels elsewhere. In its response, EPA said that petitioners had failed to raise these issues in their comments to the proposed rule and therefore lacked standing to raise them now. EPA also said that the CAA excluded consideration of indirect emissions from the petroleum sector in determining lifecycle GHG emissions.