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EPA peer review draws fire

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the results of their Renewable Fuels Standard Lifecycle Analysis on Friday. The review is part of the process in making proposed changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard referred to as RFS2. An independent third-party contractor was hired to assess the RFS2 in four areas including land use models and greenhouse gas emissions from foreign crop production.

As far as land use models, the peer groups found the EPA approach, “Was scientifically justifiable, especially given existing data and technology constraints.” They did note some problems with the satellite imagery being used.

The review of emissions from foreign crop production found “the methodologies used (for fertilizer and pesticides; N2O emissions; agricultural energy use; and CH4 emissions from rice) to be generally acceptable and a “good first approximation” of changes in GHG emissions, with “exceptions that can be easily upgraded.”

The report drew quick response from agriculture and renewable fuels interests. Matt Hartwig with the Renewable Fuels Association charged the EPA “Stacked the deck against biofuels.” Specifically, Hartwig says some of the scientists on the peer review panels “are noted anti-ethanol and anti-agriculture activists.” The biggest complaint is with the idea that a farmer in Brazil clearing land to raise corn should be taken into account when assessing the environmental impact of ethanol made from corn raised in the United States. “There is no science that supports that conclusion,” says Hartwig, “it is a very young theory let along proven science that suggests that might be going on.” He says they do not believe it and requests for the EPA methodology, models and data used to determine this have gone unanswered.

National Corn Growers Association president Bob Dickey expressed his disappointment in the peer report as well. “There is no objectivity and a complete lack of unbiased opinions in the process. We are dismayed by EPA’s complete disregard for an approach that is fair and balanced. We are also puzzled as to why the United States Department of Agriculture, which has extensive knowledge related to this issue, was in no way included in the peer review process.”

House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson says this reaffirmed many of the concerns he has about EPA’s proposed rule and rulemaking process for RFS2. “I am also concerned that there is no evidence that the U.S. Department of Agriculture or any other Federal agencies with expertise on these issues were included in the peer review process. This is exactly why the House of Representatives voted in the climate change bill to limit EPA’s ability to implement international indirect land use provisions in the RFS2.”

The public comment period on the proposed changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard is open until September 25th and Hartwig is encouraging people to contact their representatives and ask them to make sure EPA “gets this right.”

AUDIO: Matt Hartwig comments on the peer review 5:35

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