WASHINGTON (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by failing to update Congress on the environmental impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard program, and failed to study whether increased ethanol use is causing harm to the environment, the Sierra Club claims in a federal lawsuit.
In a complaint filed Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Sierra Club claims the EPA is years overdue on its reporting obligations, and that the result has been a failure to address the growing prevalence of respiratory illness and environmental degradations the group says are being cause by corn and soy-based ethanol.
Devorah Ancel of the Sierra Club's Oakland, California office is the lead attorney for the plaintiff.
According to the complaint, the Renewable Fuel Standard program created under the Energy Independence and Security Act, is supposed to reduce “climate change-inducing petroleum fuels” by using renewable biofuels.
But “[i]n some regions of the country, the pollutant emission levels from vehicles running on high ethanol content fuels are greater than those from vehicles running on high gasoline content fuel,” the Sierra Club says.
The EPA is responsible for setting renewable fuel annual standards, approving new technologies to create renewable fuels, and limiting fuel production if it’s causing harm to the economy or environment.
However, Sierra Club says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is not submitting reports required to adequately perform these duties.
“The EPA has failed to assess and report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the Energy Independence and Security Act’s Renewable Fuel Standard program and has failed to complete the required ‘anti-backsliding’ study to determine whether vehicle and engine air pollutant emissions changes, resulting from the Program’s renewable fuel volumes, adversely impact air quality,” the complaint says.
It adds: “Without information provided by the [EPA’s] Report, Congress cannot meaningfully review the statute and make necessary changes to the law, including altering renewable fuel volume targets, to address adverse environmental and health impacts that harm Sierra Club members.”
The Sierra Club says it sent a letter to Pruitt on February 23, informing him that he wasn’t performing his duty in regard to the Renewable Fuel Standard program.
“EPAA’s failure to complete the statutorily required Triennial Report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard program and the anti-backsliding air quality assessment has caused and will continue to cause injury to Sierra Club members,” the complaint says.
The Sierra Club seeks a declaration that Pruitt and the EPA have violated federal law, and an order compelling them to file the overdue reports.
A spokesperson for the agency said it is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond at the appropriate time.
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