Refiners appeal RFS ruling

Source: By Pamela King, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 6, 2020

Valero Energy Corp. and a petroleum refining trade group this week asked the nation’s highest bench to scrutinize EPA’s implementation of its renewable fuel standard.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year rejected a challenge to EPA’s 2010 “point of obligation” rule, which requires refineries and importers — but not blenders — to comply with the standards.

Valero and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers this week asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether EPA must regularly reconsider the point of obligation and whether EPA can continue to “evade” that responsibility.

Just think about it once a year,” Valero and AFPM wrote in their petition Monday. “That’s what Congress asks of EPA: just to consider, during annual rulemaking, whether a multi-billion-dollar obligation falls on the ‘appropriate’ parties.”

It takes the vote of four justices to agree to hear a petition. The court takes up about 1% of cases that it receives.

While a panel of D.C. Circuit judges rejected the refiners’ claims, Senior Judge Stephen Williams wrote a concurring opinion expressing frustration that EPA held “essentially unfettered discretion” to decide whether it will reexamine its compliance requirements (Greenwire, Aug. 30, 2019).

Valero and AFPM called on the Supreme Court to rein in that discretion.

“The need for this Court’s review transcends correcting EPA’s and the D.C. Circuit’s serious statutory-interpretation errors,” the petitioners wrote. “The more basic purpose of preventing agencies from inflating their power at the expense of congressional commands — and of ensuring that courts are not complicit when agencies overreach — is central here.”

EPA declined to comment on the Supreme Court petition, but the agency told the D.C. Circuit during oral arguments last year that it would not be able to conduct an annual review of the point of obligation.

The agency will have a chance to submit a reply to the Supreme Court before the justices vote on whether to hear the case.