Republican senators urge Trump to appeal refinery ruling

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thirteen senators today called on the Trump administration to appeal a federal court ruling that could force more small refineries to meet the renewable fuel standard’s biofuel blending requirements.

Led by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the lawmakers urged President Trump in a letter not to let stand a ruling that EPA was overly broad in granting biofuel exemptions to small refineries in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

“If allowed to stand, the decision will put a dozen small refineries in the Tenth Circuit under severe financial strain and thousands of jobs at risk,” said the senators, all Republicans. “If applied nationally, it will jeopardize nearly all small refineries.”

In the Jan. 24 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Clean Air Act allows EPA only to extend waivers granted in the program’s earlier days, not to issue new ones. If that interpretation prevails, the number of such waivers will diminish dramatically. The agency granted 31 last year.

EPA hasn’t said whether it will appeal, which could include asking the 10th Circuit to rehear the case. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at a House hearing today that officials are still reviewing the case and that he has no announcements.

The senators added that prices for renewable fuel credits, or renewable identification numbers, have tripled since the ruling and are likely to keep rising if the administration doesn’t appeal. Refiners could pass that cost on to consumers through higher gas prices, they said.

At today’s hearing, Wheeler said that he hopes to issue guidance on how EPA would implement the decision “hopefully very shortly” and that Trump remains “fully committed” to the RFS and to maintaining at least 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel annually as required by Congress.

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), who’s retiring from Congress after this year, said Iowa lawmakers from both parties will remain committed to the RFS after he leaves.

“We won’t be letting up,” Loebsack said.