For more than a year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the ethanol industry have been going back and forth fighting for clarification on small refinery waivers. Finally, today the ethanol industry can declare a win over the EPA when the agency announced it supports the court’s interpretation of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) small-refinery provisions.
The EPA announced that it is supporting the Tenth Circuit Court’s January 2020 decision in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA. After review of the decision, the EPA’s new leadership agrees with both the court and the biofuel litigants that small refinery exemptions were meant to be temporary and that only pre-existing exemptions may be “extended” by the agency.
In a news release about the decision, the EPA states that it “agrees with the court that the exemption was intended to operate as a temporary measure and, consistent with that Congressional purpose, the plain meaning of the word ‘extension’ refers to continuing the status of an exemption that is already in existence.”
The four petitioners in the case — the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union — released the following statement after the decision was announced:
“Our nation’s biofuel producers and farmers appreciate EPA’s careful review of the Tenth Circuit Court’s decision, and we are pleased the agency’s new leadership is reversing the previous administration’s flawed position on small refinery exemptions. This announcement marks a major step forward by the Biden administration to restore the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard and honor the intent of Congress. We wholeheartedly agree with EPA’s conclusion that the small refinery exemption was intended to be a temporary measure and we are pleased to see the agency confirming that only previously existing exemptions may be extended.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request from two refiners to review the Tenth Circuit case, even though the EPA did not ask the high court to examine the ruling. Arguments before the Supreme Court are expected in the spring.