A lawsuit brought by the environmental advocacy groups Friends of the Earth and National Wildlife Federation challenging EPA’s Renewable Fuels Standards was dismissed this week by the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
That’s not necessarily big news. Environmental NGOs focus nearly all of their energies (and funding) on pursuing remedies in the courts. In the absence of any tidal wave of political will, that’s how they move the needle, how they use judicial injunction to do in a day what takes years via the legislative process.
What is news is that the eco-groups voluntarily ended their challenge, filing a motion with the court to withdraw from the case after the legal briefs had already been filed and just one day before oral arguments were to be heard.
Their withdrawal leaves only the National Chicken Council, the National Meat Association and the National Turkey Federation as plaintiffs challenging the 2010 Renewable Fuels Standards. The biofuels industry, represented by Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy (intervenors in the case), argued that the case should be dismissed on both procedural and substantive grounds.
“In the absence of the tax incentive, what is providing the foundational demand for the ethanol industry is the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Bob Dinneen, the Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO, said in a statement. “We think that program has proven to be tremendously successful in reducing our nation’s reliance on imported oil.”
Dinneen noted that the environmental groups’ challenge to the RFS was much broader than the poultry groups, including that EPA had not taken into account the “global rebound effect” of ethanol driving down the price of oil, which supposedly forced developing countries to consume more oil. “That is how silly the environmental claims were,” he said.
Ramping up production
All that’s left of the lawsuit now is a narrow issue regarding how EPA grandfathered ethanol plants built in 2008 and 2009 and whether those plants meet the requirements needed to obtain credits under the program. “We are hopeful that the court will act quickly to uphold this remaining element of the rules,” Dinneen said, “to create a stable environment for investment in renewable fuel facilities.”
Therein lies the problem: Our investment in centralized biofuel production isn’t paying the dividends its supporters assured us it would.