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Illinois corn growers join lawsuit against EPA over vehicle emissions rules

A line of tall corn stalks in a farm field under the clear sky.
WGLT file photo
The Illinois Corn Growers Association is contesting new EPA vehicle emissions rules in court.

The Illinois Corn Growers Association is part of a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] over new emissions rules, contending the rules, which aim to boost adoption of electric vehicles, restrict consumer choice and create an unreasonable economic impact.

The rules, finalized in April and scheduled to phase in from 2027 to 2032, mandate that automakers reduce the average emissions of their new vehicles. There are multiple ways to meet the standards, from upgrading efficiency across the board to offering more hybrid and full electric vehicles. EPA projects that by 2030-2032, some manufacturers may choose to offer 20% to 56% battery electric vehicles, depending on the type and efficiency of their fleets.

Bearded man smiling
Illinois Corn Growers Association
Dave Loos

According to the EPA’s website, implementation of the rules will substantially reduce air pollutants like poisonous carbon monoxide and ozone, as well as the climate change fueling carbon dioxide [CO2]. The EPA also contends the rules will actually increase consumer choice, as more efficient engines and filter technology can keep gasoline vehicles a part of a compliant automaker’s offerings.

Illinois Corn Growers Director of Biofuels Dave Loos contends the rules could harm the prospects of ethanol, an often corn-derived compound that can reduce the emissions of gasoline vehicles when incorporated into fuel. Loos said the rules could reduce demand for corn by 1 billion bushels by 2033.

“An economist out of Nebraska has indicated a demand destruction of this magnitude for agriculture would be similar to what agriculture has seen in the '80s,” Loos said. “And we’re already going through a time where prices of raising a crop are higher, and the returns are much lower. In many cases the farmers are not recovering enough revenue to cover the cost of producing the crop.”

Support for the lawsuit comes from myriad groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the corn associations of several other states, the American Farm Bureau and many car dealerships. Though many of these have a financial incentive to oppose the new rule, Loos dismissed the idea that is a significant motive.

“In most cases, agricultural groups are very reluctant to enter into lawsuits such as this," he said. "There’s a sense of trust in how these agencies come up with rules. But in this case, it’s much more draconian and much more impactful. While it does impact our self-interest, it also impacts the future direction this country goes, relating to consumer needs, relating to overall welfare of the economy of the U.S.”

Loos and the lawsuit itself contend the EPA has exceeded regulatory authority in the new rules, and hopes the agency will work with Congress to revise the regulations.

Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.