Farm, biofuels, and environmental groups oppose SAFE rule

By National Farmers Union | January 27, 2021

An alliance of farm, biofuels, and environmental organizations on Jan. 21 filed an amicus brief in objection to the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Vehicle (SAFE) Rule on the grounds that it both fails to account for toxic pollution from aromatic-laden fuel as well as ignores the important role that ethanol can play in improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Finalized last April by the U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the SAFE Rule reversed an Obama-era rule that called for a 5 percent improvement in vehicle efficiency. In its place, it established a much more meager 1.5 percent increase in efficiency each year for light-duty vehicles. In the notice of proposed rulemaking, EPA requested information on octane levels and how they could be increased in accordance with the Clean Air Act, but ultimately failed to address these concerns in the final rule.

The brief, which is being led by National Farmers Union, also includes support from the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, Montana Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, Siouxland Ethanol LLC, South Dakota Farmers Union, Urban Air Initiative, and Glacial Lakes Energy.

“As written, the SAFE Rule puts the interests of oil corporations ahead of those of the renewable fuel industry, the environment, or the public at large,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “Not only will it increase the overall emissions from the U.S. transportation industry, but it will also delay and disincentivize the development and adoption of renewable fuels and cleaner, more efficient vehicles – all of which will erode air quality, contribute to climate change, worsen health outcomes, and increase fuel costs for consumers.

In June, NFU joined a coalition of ethanol, agriculture, and public interest groups to dispute the rulemaking, filing a petition for review in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. However, in light of President Joe Biden’s recent executive order directing federal agencies to review the SAFE Rule, NFU voluntarily dismissed itself from the case. Instead, the group will redirect its resources to other pro-ethanol initiatives the incoming administration may be inclined to support. Although it is no longer a petitioner, NFU still stands in support of the remaining petitioners and shares their concerns, as is detailed in the brief.