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EPA Supports Tenth Circuit’s Renewable Fuels Association Decision- Action Viewed As a “Win” for Farmers

Reuters writer Stephanie Kelly reported on Monday that, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that it agrees with an appeals court’s decision last year that cast doubt on a program that granted oil refiners exemptions to U.S. biofuel blending laws.

“The announcement signals that the agency could dramatically limit the number of exemptions given to refiners under the program going forward. The move would upset some in the oil industry who say exemptions are needed to keep small refiners afloat under pricey blending requirements, but would be a huge win for the corn lobby.”

Ms. Kelly explained that, “In January 2020, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that waivers granted to small refineries after 2010 should only be approved as extensions. Because most recipients of waivers in recent years have not continuously received them year after year, the decision threatened to upend the waiver program.

National Weekly Ag Energy Round-Up. USDA Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News (February 19, 2021).

The Supreme Court is reviewing that case after oil refiners petitioned.

The EPA said in Monday’s notice that it agrees with the 10th Circuit’s assessment that an exemption must exist for the agency to be able to extend it.

And Jennifer A Dlouhy reported on Monday at Bloomberg that, “The Biden administration is taking steps that could limit the ability of oil refineries to get exemptions from a federal biofuel-blending mandate.

“The Environmental Protection Agency will announce Monday that it is effectively siding with renewable fuel producers in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The agency will say that it agrees with a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that concluded small refineries are only eligible for those valuable waivers if they have continually received the exemptions.”

“The move represents President Joe Biden ’s first foray into biofuel policy, an issue that tests his allegiance to rural agricultural interests as well as blue-collar refinery workers. On the campaign trail, Biden criticized a surge in refinery waivers during the Trump administration,” the Bloomberg article said.

Ms. Dlouhy added that, “Some 66 refinery exemption applications are now pending before the EPA, including 16 for 2020, but the agency does not plan to decide on them before the Supreme Court’s ruling, said Joe Goffman, the acting assistant administrator for air and radiation.”

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported on Monday that, “Agency officials issued the statement even though President Joe Biden’s nominee to head EPA, Michael Regan, has not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“EPA officials added that the agency’s decision was brought about by a detailed review following the Supreme Court’s decision to grant a hearing in an appeal requested by two petroleum refiners. EPA noted, ‘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’ intent in establishing the RFS program.'”

Also on Monday, Associated Press writer David Pitt reported that, “Roughly 40% of U.S. corn is used to produce ethanol. The EPA under Trump issued 85 retroactive small refinery exemptions for the 2016-2018 compliance years, undercutting the renewable fuel volumes by a total of 4 billion gallons, (15.1 billion liters) according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

“Roughly a month after President Joe Biden took office, his EPA reversed the federal government’s stand, saying the EPA agrees with the appeals court that the exemption was intended to operate as a temporary measure.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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