Lawmakers urge EPA to lower ethanol target amid drought

A bipartisan group of 135 lawmakers signed a letter Wednesday asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adjust a rule that requires corn ethanol production for transportation fuel.

The lawmakers want EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to temporarily reduce the amount of corn ethanol that gets blended into gasoline under the renewable fuel standard (RFS). They say meeting this year’s target of 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol production will tighten corn supplies for livestock producers, given the widespread drought that has devastated farm production.

Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) are leading the effort. They will send the letter Thursday and hold a morning press conference to discuss the issue.

Goodlatte has sponsored a bill with Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) that would let the EPA reduce the ethanol targets by as much as 50 percent when corn supplies run low. Costa has said that the bill could offer relief for ranchers and farmers while the House decides how to approach a farm spending bill.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate.

Livestock groups on Monday filed a petition for a waiver from the RFS with the EPA. They said the drought that has whittled corn crops, combined with the mandate for corn ethanol production, is driving up feed prices. In turn, that has forced ranchers to curtail some operations, which ranchers say will increase meat costs for consumers.

The EPA has the authority to waive all or part of the RFS when the rule causes severe economic and environmental harm. It has refused to grant such requests in the past.

Corn ethanol proponents contend the ethanol mandate contains plenty of flexibility that will buffer some of the hard decisions ranchers face. They say about 2.5 billion gallons worth of renewable identification numbers, which are credits for renewable fuel productions, can be used this year and next against the RFS quota.



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