Trade groups oppose oil industry move to place RFS court challenges on hold

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014

Biofuels trade organizations are opposing a motion filed in federal court that seeks to delay oil industry groups’ challenges to U.S. EPA’s 2013 renewable fuel targets.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday to put their challenges on hold until EPA finishes independently reconsidering the rule that set the 2013 targets. EPA joined with the oil trade groups on the motion (Greenwire, April 15).In a court document filed yesterday, biofuels groups intervening in the case said that the move to delay the challenges less than a week after the oil industry faced EPA in court over them would serve “no purpose.” Oral arguments in the case were held April 7 (Greenwire, April 7).”The petitions have been fully briefed, responded to, and argued,” the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association said. “No purpose is served by pulling API and AFPM’s petitions back a week after argument, to hold them indefinitely and consolidate them with hypothetical later-filed petitions.”

API and AFPM are challenging EPA’s rule that required refiners to blend 16.55 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuel into petroleum gasoline and diesel in 2013. Of that total, 13.8 billion gallons was to be conventional ethanol and 2.75 billion gallons was to be of advanced biofuel not made from corn.

The oil groups have argued that EPA overshot its estimation of how much cellulosic biofuel — an advanced biofuel made from agricultural residue, grasses and other plant materials — would be produced. They also say that EPA released its final rule eight months late and made two changes that caught refiners by surprise and increased their compliance burdens: The agency used updated fuel consumption data and granted an exemption to a small refinery.

The court has already put the cellulosic part of the lawsuit on hold, as EPA announced earlier this year that it would initiate formal reconsideration proceedings of the cellulosic target. But on Friday, API and AFPM also asked the court to put the rest of their challenges on hold, as well as sever their case from that of Monroe Energy LCC, a small refiner belonging to Delta Air Lines Inc.

The D.C. court last fall combined the groups’ challenge with Monroe’s, which argued that the requirements forced refiners to use more ethanol above the practical limit that can be blended into gasoline (Greenwire, Oct. 16, 2013).

In their opposing court brief, the biofuel trade groups argued that EPA has only said it would reconsider the cellulosic biofuel standard and not the rest of the annual targets.

They also accused the oil groups of seeking “artificial” relief by asking to split up the case.

“What they are really asking is for the court to ‘un-consolidate’ those petitions from Monroe’s the week after arguments so that API and AFPM can try again at some later date, perhaps with a different panel,” the court document says.