WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, theD.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruledthat the EPA must comply with the Endangered Species Act by evaluating harm to endangered and threatened species when setting corn ethanol volumes in the national gasoline supply. The growth of corn for ethanol has caused the eradication of millions of acres of native grasslands in the Midwest and water pollution from the Mississippi River basin into the approximate 8,000 square mile Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As the court recognized, EPA’s actions are impacting endangered species, including the whooping crane in Kansas and the Gulf Sturgeon in the Mississippi.
The Sierra Club and Healthy Gulf (formerly the Gulf Restoration Network) lawsuit challenged EPA for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in setting the ethanol standards to ensure they do not jeopardize endangered species, which the EPA had failed and refused to do since the inception of its Renewable Fuels Standards in 2010.
Approximately 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is diverted to biorefineries for fuel production, up from nine percent in 2001, as a result of EPA’s increasing corn ethanol volume mandates. In addition to the massive loss of native grasslands, excessive nutrient runoff from this increased agricultural production have contributed to severe algal blooms and hypoxic areas in the Great Lakes and as far downstream as the Gulf of Mexico.
“Today’s victory shows that the EPA can’t just abandon its duties to wreak havoc on critical land and endangered species,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Devorah Ancel. “It's unconscionable that the EPA continues to expand ethanol production when it’s destroying our land, water and air. Moving away from gasoline-powered vehicles is critical, but mixing corn with gasoline isn’t the answer to cleaning up our transportation pollution.”
“As we move away from fossil fuels, it’s important for us to ensure the alternatives are not harmful to Endangered Species,” said Dustin Renaud, Communications Director of Healthy Gulf. “Our transition to renewables should be equitable for our communities, wildlife, air and water. This is a victory for all Americans.”
The Clean Air Act was amended in 2005 and 2007 to address the significant climate change-inducing emissions from the transportation sector with the goal of reducing and replacing gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels with significant quantities of renewable fuels. The amendments require specific amounts of biofuels, mostly corn-based ethanol, to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year. The EPA sets annual standards of billions of gallons, but has been increasing volumes without analyzing the environmental impacts, including effects on federally protected endangered and threatened species as required by the Endangered Species Act. The environmental impacts of massive corn ethanol growth under the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard program include the conversion of millions of acres of native grasslands to cropland, with attendant habitat loss and harm to sensitive wildlife species, increased use of pesticides and water pollution, and release of carbon into the atmosphere.
About the Sierra Club The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About Healthy Gulf (formerly Gulf Restoration Network) Founded in 1994, Healthy Gulf, formerly Gulf Restoration Network, is a nonprofit focused on empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico region.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.