RFA: Refinery exemption ruling a ‘mixed bag’ for ethanol industry

Source: By Kellan Heavican, Brownfield • Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The head of the Renewable Fuels Association says Friday’s DC Circuit Court ruling on small refinery exemptions (SRE) isn’t likely to harm the ethanol industry.

President and CEO Geoff Cooper tells Brownfield the appeals court rejected arguments from both biofuels groups and oil refiners. “Well, it’s really a mixed bag for us in the ethanol industry and we think this ruling is unlikely to have an impact on how the EPA implements the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).”

Growth Energy v EPA challenged the agency’s failure to account for its retroactive SRE exemptions that biofuels groups say undercut the annual volumes by 7 percent in 2019.

Cooper says a key point was the court rejected that the RFS obligations negatively impacted oil refiners. “Really all of the familiar arguments from the refiners were thrown into this litigation and the court one-by-one rejected those arguments and really, hopefully put them to bed once and for all.”

Part of the decision discards four arguments from oil refiners who sought a severe economic harm waiver, an inadequate domestic supply waiver, point of obligation and exported renewable fuel.

And Cooper says three environmental groups won after the court agreed EPA didn’t’ accurately assess the environmental impact of the RFS on endangered species. “That may at first seem concerning but we are quite confident when EPA sits down and does a more robust, more thorough assessment of the environmental impacts of this program, they’re going to find quite compelling there are no concerns, no negative impacts associated with the program.”

Cooper says RFA is examining other options like asking for a rehearing or taking the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, work with EPA to restore lost volumes and waiting for rulings on two other cases.