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Biofuels industry seeks Supreme Court review of exemptions

Wants to overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency's denial of small refinery exemptions (SREs).

Gavel On Counter Close Up

Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) have jointly petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of several small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The petition argues that these challenges should be adjudicated solely in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit due to the nationwide implications of the EPA’s SRE policy.

Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, emphasized that other U.S. Courts of Appeals, including the Third, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits, have ruled that the D.C. Circuit is the appropriate venue for SRE challenges. She highlighted the need for a single court to ensure a consistent and coherent SRE policy, thereby avoiding regulatory and market uncertainty for the nation’s transportation fuel supply.

In April and June 2022, the EPA denied 105 SRE petitions from 36 refineries across 18 states. The EPA applied a nationwide legal requirement for SRE eligibility, requiring refineries to demonstrate a direct causal relationship between RFS compliance and economic hardship. The EPA found that none of the petitioning refineries met this burden, asserting that refineries generally can pass through compliance costs without incurring economic hardship.

Refineries that were denied SREs challenged the decisions in various circuit courts, including the Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits. All except the Fifth Circuit concluded that the D.C. Circuit was the proper venue, dismissing or transferring the cases there. The Fifth Circuit, however, held that it was the correct venue and vacated the EPA’s denials for the refineries in question. This has led Growth Energy and RFA to seek Supreme Court intervention to ensure uniformity in SRE policy adjudication.

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