RFA Wins Court Stay on Last-Minute RFS Waivers
EPA Waiver Approval Update 012221
The D.C. Circuit Court handed the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) a win in its last battle with the Trump Administration over waivers to the Renewable Fuels Standard. The court ordered EPA to halt action on three blending waivers granted to refiners by outgoing EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler just hours before he left office. The court order halts implementation of the Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) until they can be reviewed by the courts.
The waivers allow refineries to bypass requirements for blending ethanol and other biofuels. The three exemptions granted by the outgoing EPA administrator include two of the 32 pending applications for 2019 and a reversal of a previously denied application for 2018.
While the granted waivers represent only a small portion of the total number pending, RFA CEO Geoff Cooper told AgriTalk Radio’s Chip Flory that they are another huge blow to the ethanol industry.
“That's another 260 million gallons of renewable fuel blending that is just erased,” Cooper explained. “That'd be like shutting down three or four ethanol plants. It's like scratching 90 million bushels of corn demand off the balance sheet.”
The Supreme Court has agreed to review an earlier 10th Circuit Court decision that put the brakes on most of the SREs. The circuit court ruled that the exemptions had to be extensions of existing waivers dating back to 2010, not wholly new applications. ?The Supreme Court is expected to take up this review this spring and offer a decision this summer. ?Outgoing EPA Administrator Wheeler had earlier said he would hold on review of further SREs until the high court had spoken on the matter.
“We're still questioning and kind of curious about what in that decision led them [the Supreme Court] to want to take a look at it. It was a unanimous decision out of the 10th circuit, so there was no disagreement amongst the judges that heard the case in the 10th circuit, there was no split decision there. It's not like there have been other circuit courts finding differently in this thing, so ?it is a bit curious why,” Cooper said. ?“We're not sure exactly what prompted or piqued the Supreme Court's interest in this thing., but I think we'll find out here in the next few months, and we expect to finally have some closure on this thing, by June or July.”
The court filing by RFA that brought about the stay was also a message to the incoming administration according to Cooper.
“We wanted to send in that emergency motion on Tuesday evening to call a timeout on this thing and put a halt to it partly as a signal to the new incoming folks at EPA that, you know, dang it, we're serious about this issue. This has got to stop,” he said. “We’re very hopeful that, and, in fact, I'd say we're very confident that the new EPA Administrator, once he's confirmed, he and the other new officials there at EPA are going to put an end to this nonsense that we've seen with these exemptions the past four years.”