Harkin drops indirect land use amendment

By Craig A. Johnson | September 15, 2009
Report posted Sept. 24, 2009, 1:27 p.m. CST

In a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged that indirect land use rules related to biofuels would reflect the uncertainty of the science used to develop them.

On Tuesday, Harkin introduced an amendment to H.R. 2996, the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010, which would abrogate funding for the EPA's implementation of any rule limiting production or use of biofuels based on indirect land use.

"In light of the EPA letter, and because EPA had said it would delay issuing regulations to establish renewable fuel volume biofuel requirements for 2010," Harkin withdrew the amendment, according to spokesman Grant Gustafson.

Harkin's amendment was founded on the weak science behind indirect land use change. "At this time, the data and analytic methodologies for credibly calculating international indirect land use change emissions do not exist. Because of this, including these international emissions in the EPA's rule would put an unjust burden on the biofuels industry," he said in an official statement.

According to Jackson's letter, "…It is important to take into account indirect emissions from biofuels when looking at the lifecycle emissions as required by EISA [the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007]. However, it is also clear that there are significant uncertainties associated with these estimates and in particular, with the estimate of indirect land use change."

Comments on the implementation of the second stage of the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) began in May; the original 60-day deadline was extended for an additional 60 days and will close Sept. 25. According to Jackson's letter, the EPA has already received "thousands of comments, and expect to get many more by the closing deadline."