A deadline to appeal a ruling striking down waivers from the biofuel mandate came and went, and biofuel groups are cheering the fact that the Trump administration has not asked for a rehearing of the case.
The decision puts to rest weeks of debate about how the administration should approach the ruling, which struck down three small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The case, if applied nationwide, had “the potential of completely changing the small refinery program,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told reporters in February.
In a joint statement, the four groups that filed the 10th Circuit case — the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Corn Growers Association, and the National Farmers Union — outlined what they hope the Trump administration does next with the ruling.
“We trust this also means the administration does not plan to petition the Supreme Court for an appeal,” they said. “Abiding by the court’s ruling is the right thing to do at a time when our industries and rural America are already suffering from the effects of COVID-19, the Saudi-Russia oil price war and ongoing trade disputes.
“Requesting a rehearing would have only prolonged uncertainty in the marketplace and exacerbated the pain and frustration already being experienced in the Heartland,” the groups added. “With this key milestone now behind us, we look forward to EPA applying the Tenth Circuit decision nationwide to all SRE petitions, beginning with the 25 pending petitions for 2019 exemptions.”
National Biodiesel Board lobbyist Kurt Kovarik said EPA "should put an end to the unwarranted expansion of small refinery exemptions" that have "destroyed demand for hundreds of millions of gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel over the past three years."
Biofuel group Growth Energy also issued a statement saying the decision not to appeal was “the right call.” But CEO Emily Skor also pointed to next steps and urged the administration to consider the issues currently facing the biofuels sector.
“Plans to support the oil and gas industry are already under discussion, and it’s critical that policymakers give equal consideration to ethanol, as the plummet in the liquid transportation fuel market affects us all,” she said. “We are working closely with our partners in the industry and our champions in Congress to identify solutions that can help mitigate the industry downturn — and we’re looking at short-term relief as well as long-term remedies to recover and grow markets.”
On Monday, ethanol giant POET announced it was suspending corn purchases “at a number of locations” and was “actively evaluating biofuel production levels to reflect falling gasoline demand.”
The Trump administration may have elected not to appeal the decision, but two refineries have filed petitions for rehearing either by the same three-judge panel that issued the unanimous ruling in January or a hearing en banc with all the circuit’s judges.
The decision not to appeal is already being met with fury by pro-refinery interests on Capitol Hill. Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the EPA, called the decision "inexcusable."
"The agency’s decision to give up without a fight threatens small refineries in Wyoming and across the country," he said. "EPA’s decision puts tens of thousands of jobs at risk at a time of great economic uncertainty.”
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