Federal court grants oil refiners a victory in ethanol waiver battle

Source: by John Siciliano, Washington Eaminer • Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2019

A federal appeals court granted oil refiners a victory Friday by denying a renewable fuel group’s attempt to block the Environmental Protection Agency from exempting oil companies from blending ethanol in gasoline.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Advanced Biofuels Association’s request for a temporary injunction to stop the EPA from exempting oil companies from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The standard requires refiners to blend billions of gallons of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply each year.

“Petitioner has not satisfied the stringent requirements for an injunction pending court review,” the court said in a brief one-page order issued Friday.

The court lacked any explanation on why it chose to deny the request for injunction.

The court offered “no explanation for its decision to allow EPA to continue making small refinery exemption decisions behind closed doors, without any transparency at all, and without any opportunity for public review,” said Paul Winters, spokesman for the National Biodiesel Board, who has been tracking the injunction over the last year.

Mike McAdams, the head of the group that filed the motion, said he was disappointed with the decision.

The Advanced Biofuels Association had argued that then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had granted exemptions to refiners in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner without disclosing who the companies were.

The ethanol industry, which is engaged in a separate court fight over the waivers, has blamed the EPA waivers for destroying demand for its corn-based fuel. Oral arguments in the ethanol industry’s case are set to be heard in the appeals court next month.

The refinery industry praised the court’s decision as vindication of the EPA’s refinery exemption program and that the renewable fuel industry has been wrong to oppose it.

“Under standards applied by the Court, it seems as though the biofuels lobby couldn’t prove they were significantly harmed or that they were likely to succeed on the merits or both,” the refinery industry’s Fueling American Jobs Coalition said in a statement.

The refinery industry group said it now looks forward to the EPA reaching timely decisions on a number of pending refinery exemption applications.

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa have called on the EPA to stop granting the exemptions. They fear that the continuation of the waivers will harm the ethanol industry at a time when farmers are struggling from a trade war with China and low commodity prices.