EPA faces lawsuit over reduction in ethanol levels

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A Washington watchdog group is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying the agency’s rollback of ethanol mandates in 2014 was the result of oil industry lobbying efforts.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the Obama administration has “backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels,” according to CREW executive director Melanie Sloan.

CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May seeking disclosure of records and subsequently sued, saying the EPA has failed to release communications with the oil industry over the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard.

The agency filed the lawsuit on Oct. 22 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., saying the EPA had “yet to hand over all relevant documents.”

In the complaint, CREW challenged “the failure of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disclose to CREW, on an expedited basis, records related to EPA’s proposal to decrease the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel supplies in the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard.”

In November 2013 the EPA proposed to decrease the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into the fuel supply for the first time, the group said in its complaint.

“According to news reports, the proposed standards were influenced substantially by the Carlyle Group and Delta Air Lines, both of which pressed lawmakers, White House officials and regulators to change the standards,” the complaint read.

“Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the midterms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?” Sloan asked in a CREW statement.

The year-long delay “appears to have been caused in part by … the upcoming midterm elections and an effort to avoid political fallout from the updated RFS, which sides with big oil against the biofuel industry,” the complaint read.

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