Court rejects challenges to RFS implementation

Source: By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 2, 2019

The case concerns EPA’s decision not to revise its 2010 rule for who is responsible for complying with the fuel standards.

In 2010, EPA required refineries and importers to bear that burden, but not blenders. It later stuck with that analysis.

Some petroleum refineries and their trade groups contended the exclusion of blenders made the “point of obligation” rule unworkable.

Another industry group argued the rule should be reevaluated based on EPA’s 2017 renewable fuel requirements, while also arguing that those percentages were set too high.

And a third challenger, the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group for companies that make fuel from cooking grease, animal fat and soybean oil, argued that the 2018 standards for biodiesel were set too low.

In an 87-page decision today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected every claim.

“None of the petitioners’ challenges succeeds,” the court wrote.

The court largely agreed with EPA’s reasoning that it has significant discretion over how to implement the program, though the challengers had called the rule a “misalignment” and said it was part of the reason the refining firm Philadelphia Energy Solutions filed for bankruptcy last year (Greenwire, Oct. 8, 2018).

While he concurred with the decision, Senior Judge Stephen Williams expressed frustration with the program, calling EPA’s legal interpretation a “muddle” and chastising the court’s decision for its breadth.

“I respectfully disagree with the panel’s conclusion, which grants EPA essentially unfettered discretion as to when — or even if — it will consider the appropriateness of the point of obligation,” Williams wrote.