Iowa attorney general asks U.S. Supreme Court to block biofuels exemptions

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Wednesday he and seven other attorneys general have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to side with biofuels interests in a fight over small-refinery exemptions.

Miller and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson led the effort to file an eight-state amicus brief with the nation’s high court. To Miller’s surprise, the court agreed to hear a Trump administration appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals case blocking the exemptions for refineries that hadn’t had them continuously.

“The EPA’s practice of freely granting exemptions to the oil industry has undermined the promise of renewable fuels and harmed Iowa’s farmers and biofuels industries,” Miller said. “I’m grateful that a bipartisan coalition of states has joined us in this effort.”

Miller told reporters at an Iowa Statehouse news conference he was surprised the high court took the case mainly because of the limited number of cases the court chooses to hear. Observers have wondered what effect, if any, the change to a new administration will have on the case. 

In February, EPA announced it supported the 10th Circuit decision, Miller noted. The U.S. Justice Department submitted a brief supporting that view in the case before the Supreme Court.

Iowa is the top producer of both ethanol and the corn it is made of, and a major producer of biodiesel made from soybeans. 

Miller said the small-refinery exemptions have reduced the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate by an average of 7% a year from 2017 through 2019. That led to $2 billion in lost sales for the biofuels industry.

Miller’s brief also was signed by the attorneys general of Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Virginia.

The case is scheduled for oral arguments at 9 a.m. April 27, with a decision expected by July.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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