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UPDATE 1-Ethanol producers, oil refiners challenge EPA U.S. vehicle rules

(Adds more suits, background)

By David Shepardson

March 1 (Reuters) - A number of corn and soybean growers associations, the American Fuel And Petrochemical Manufacturers and others are challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) tougher vehicle emission rules.

The corn growers, a Valero Energy subsidiary and other ethanol producers said the new EPA rules revising emission requirements through 2026 "effectively mandate the production and sale of electric cars rather than cars powered by internal combustion engines." The EPA did not immediately comment.

The EPA rules reverse former President Donald Trump's rollback of car pollution cuts and aim to speed a U.S. shift to more electric vehicles.

If expressed in miles per gallon (mpg) requirements, the EPA rules would result in a fleetwide real-world average of about 40 mpg in 2026, versus 38 mpg under the initial Biden administration proposal and 32 mpg under the Trump rules.

Biden wants 50% of all new vehicles sold in 2030 to be EV or plug-in hybrid models but has not endorsed California's plan to phase out new gas-powered light-duty vehicles by 2035.

In March 2020, Trump's Republican administration rolled back President Barack Obama's standards and required only 1.5% annual increases in efficiency through 2026. Obama had required 5% annual increases.

The new rules take effect in the 2023 model year and require a 28.3% reduction in vehicle emissions through 2026.

The state soybean groups and another Valero subsidiary said the final rule exceeds "EPA’s authority by favoring one technology, electric vehicles, over others, including" ethanol produced by the farmers.

The EPA failed to "adequately considering the vast greenhouse gas reduction benefits provided by renewable fuels," they added.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Domestic Energy Producers Alliance also filed a separate challenge saying the rule seeks "to establish stringent fleet-wide automobile emission standards with credit trading and enhanced credits for electric vehicles, but the agency lacks the legal authority to issue such a rule." (Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Chris Reese)

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