EPA hit with 3 lawsuits over RFS rule

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2017

U.S. EPA is facing at least three lawsuits over its rule setting renewable fuel requirements for 2017 and biodiesel requirements through 2018.

The American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and National Biodiesel Board each filed petitions for review late last week challenging the standards.

Under the renewable fuel standard, EPA sets annual requirements for conventional and advanced biofuels to be mixed into petroleum-based gasoline and diesel.

At issue is EPA’s final rule issued in November near the end of the Obama administration requiring that a total of 19.28 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used in 2017 — an increase from a proposed 18.8 billion gallons.

Of that total, EPA mandated that refiners use 15 billion gallons of conventional corn ethanol, a level consistent with the one that Congress set out in the law that created the RFS.

EPA also required that 2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel — a fuel made from soybean oil, used cooking grease and animal fats — be used in 2018, an increase from 2 billion in 2017 (Greenwire, Nov. 23, 2016).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit consolidated the three challenges to the rule into one lawsuit.

The suit is likely to raise similar issues as the litigation over EPA’s prior RFS rule, which is currently pending in the D.C. Circuit.

Both biofuels advocates and critics have challenged the rule, which set three years’ worth of renewable fuel levels below congressional mandates yet above what oil and gas companies say is the feasible level of biofuels that can be blended into petroleum fuel (E&E News PM, Nov. 30, 2015).

“This is essentially a continuation of last year’s petition,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, in an emailed statement. “The filings deal with similar issues so this was a needed step to safeguard American biodiesel interests.”

A three-judge panel of the court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case over the 2014-16 standards on April 24.