White House, environmentalists met before renewable fuel program crop approval

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The green advocates warned the officials against encouraging cultivation of the two species, which are not native to the U.S. and can easily spread.

Read Porter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law Institute who attended the meeting, has studied the effects of invasive species.

Based on that research, he said, “it seems to us that the use of subsidies or benefits for potentially invasive non-native biofuels, it has a high potential for escape and associated cost to the economy and the environment.”

One of the species, he explained, can grow quickly and densely over wild lands, requiring costly eradication, and also poses a fire hazard if struck by lightning.

“Between the cost of control and eradication and the fire things, you can really see that there are economic costs as well an environmental one,” he explained.

This month, the EPA approved the species, giant reed and napier grass, to be used in the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners mix biofuel in with petroleum. 

In its rule, the EPA added additional requirements to prevent the likelihood that the crops could spread and invade other areas.

Those new requirements seemed to satisfy Porter, though he would not offer a firm endorsement.

“We think the most effective tool to prevent invasion is going to be not to approve it,” he said. “That said, I think we’re gratified that EPA took seriously our input and included risk management provisions in that rule.”

In addition to the Environmental Law Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Geological Society of America and Weed Science Society of America attended the White House meeting on June 28.