EPA agrees RFS exemptions should be tightly limited

The EPA said that after careful consideration, it “supports the court’s interpretation of the Renewable Fuel Standard small-refinery provisions.

In a reversal from the Trump era, the EPA said on Monday that it supports an appellate court ruling that greatly reduces the availability to small refineries of exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agency is not acting on requests for RFS waivers while the appellate ruling is under review by the Supreme Court.

The EPA said that after careful consideration, it “supports the court’s interpretation of the Renewable Fuel Standard small-refinery provisions. The change reflects the agency’s considered assessment that the 10th Circuit’s reasoning better reflects the statutory text and structure, as well as Congress’s intent in establishing the RFS program.” Monday was the deadline for EPA to say if it would support or oppose the appellate court.

Refiners appealed the appellate decision and the Supreme Court agreed on Jan. 8 to rule on the matter. The appeals court said exemptions could be given only for small refineries that held a waiver in the preceding year. The “hardship” waivers were created by Congress to help refineries processing up to 75,000 barrels of oil a day to handle the expense of mixing biofuels into gasoline. During the Trump administration, the number of waivers quadrupled. Ethanol makers said they waivers reduced the market for renewable fuels.

“We are pleased the agency’s new leadership is reversing the previous administration’s flawed position on small refinery exemption,” said the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the National Farmers Union, the victors in the appellate court. “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.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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