Nebraska senators urge EPA to back biofuels industry

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to continue its support for renewable fuels when drafting rules that could limit amounts of ethanol blended with gasoline for fuel.

Forty-two of Nebraska’s 49 senators signed a letter sent to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday, urging her to consider the impact of modifying the market for the ethanol industry that contributes $5 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Congress created a Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, to grow ethanol and biodiesel markets in the U.S. The policy requires specific volumes of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline. The EPA is expected to release oil industry draft rules for 2016 on June 1.

Supporters worry that oil companies are lobbying to decrease the amounts of ethanol required in fuel.

Nebraska senators say biofuels burn cleaner, create jobs and have reduced the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The letter says the state’s ethanol industry employs more than 1,300 workers and supports 3,300 other jobs.

“We must ignore efforts by big oil to protect a national gasoline mandate and record profits at the expense of the country’s environmental, energy and national security futures,” the letter says.

Loran Schmit, executive director of the Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers, attributes the Legislature’s bipartisan support to property tax relief for corn farmers. Nebraska lawmakers are scrambling to lower property taxes for residents this year.

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