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EPA Office of Inspector General: EPA has not met certain statutory requirements to identify environmental impacts of RFS

The US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that the EPA has not met certain statutory requirements to identify environmental impacts of Renewable Fuel Standard.

In a newly released report, the OIG said that EPA’s Office of Research and Development has not complied with the requirement to provide a report every 3 years to Congress on the impacts of biofuels. The EPA provided a report to Congress in 2011, but has not provided subsequent reports as required.

Further, the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation has not fulfilled the anti-backsliding requirements for RFS, which are to analyze and address any negative air quality impacts of RFS.

The anti-backsliding provisions are intended to ensure that new regulations intended to address one problem do not actually make other environmental problems worse. The law sets forth two anti-backsliding requirements for the EPA:

  • Within 18 months, complete an anti-backsliding study to determine whether the required renewable fuel volumes will adversely impact air quality as a result of changes in vehicle and engine emissions of air pollutants.

  • No later than 3 years (by December 2010), implement appropriate measures to mitigate any adverse impacts on air quality or make a determination that no such measures are necessary (considering the results of the anti-backsliding study).

The EPA has not met these requirements.

Also, in 2010, the EPA completed a comprehensive lifecycle analysis to determine greenhouse gas reduction thresholds for RFS. Although not required to do so, the EPA committed to update this analysis as lifecycle science evolves, but does not have a process for initiating an update.

The OIG noted that the RFS reporting requirement provides for an objective analysis on the environmental impacts and unintended consequences of US biofuel policy. Given the conflicting scientific opinions about biofuel impacts, potential impacts outside of the EPA’s regulatory control, and divergent RFS interests, such an analysis is important, OIG said.

OIG recommended that EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Research and Development provide to Congress triennial reports on the impacts of biofuels as required. It further recommended the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation complete the anti-backsliding study as required; determine if additional mitigation is needed; and, although not required by statute, develop or identify the process for evaluating the lifecycle science and determining whether to update the greenhouse gas threshold determinations.

The EPA agreed with all recommendations and provided planned completion dates; thus, OIG considers these recommendations resolved and open pending completion.

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