The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging that the Agency has not enforced laws that protect grasslands from destruction related to biofuel production.

At issue here, it seems, is the EPA's aggregate compliance approach, which the NWF asserts is in clear violation of guidelines within the Renewable Fuel Standard Program. Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture programs for the NWF, says that:
Plowing up our nation's last remnants of native grasslands to grow more corn for ethanol is like burning the Mona Lisa for firewood. We are shocked that the EPA would choose to ignore this statutory prohibition.
The NWF argues that the EPA's reluctance to crack down on violators "allows fragile and federally protected ecosystem like America's grasslands to be destroyed for biofuels production." Who wants that?

[Source: National Wildlife Federation | Image: Dendroica cerulea – C.C. License 2.0]
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Going to Court to Protect a Vanishing Ecosystem

The National Wildlife Federation is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a bid to protect America's vanishing grasslands. The EPA is ignoring laws designed to protect the fragile ecosystem from harmful and unnecessary agricultural production. The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) created by Congress and implemented by the EPA requires a certain amount of transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain renewable fuel, such as corn ethanol. In crafting the RFS, Congress clearly recognizes the need to protect America's grasslands by limiting biofuel feedstock production and harvesting to agricultural lands. In other words, natural ecosystems, like grasslands, are not supposed to be converted for agricultural uses. However, the EPA is flaunting this important provision by adopting an "aggregate compliance approach", which allows protected ecosystems to be destroyed for biofuels production.

"Burning the Mona Lisa for Firewood"

"Plowing up our nation's last remnants of native grasslands to grow more corn for ethanol is like burning the Mona Lisa for firewood," said Julie Sibbing, Director of Agriculture programs for the National Wildlife Federation. "We are shocked that the EPA would choose to ignore this statutory prohibition, further exposing grassland birds – the fastest declining group of birds in North America – to further habitat destruction."

Converting grasslands for biofuel production will create irreversible damage to this vanishing ecosystem and have a greater impact on the Earth. These native grasslands are huge carbon sinks, and plowing and farming them will release 44 to 80 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per acre into the atmosphere over the next 20 years. If developed for agriculture, each individual acre will produce more GHG emissions than the average American in one year. Additionally, this delicate environmental network is already filled with declining bird species, like sage grouse and prairie chickens, which will vanish forever if the EPA continues to violate RFS protections. The National Wildlife Federation's goal in this lawsuit is to ensure that the federal renewable fuel requirements are met in a way that protects natural ecosystems from environmentally damaging conversion to agricultural land.

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