A biofuels coalition filed its opening brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday challenging 31 small refinery exemptions granted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2018.

The group — Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Biodiesel Board, American Coalition for Ethanol, and the National Farmers Union — argues the agency does not have the authority to grant the exemptions and accused EPA of acting arbitrarily and capriciously.

“The EPA had absolutely no legal basis for continuing to destroy demand for renewable fuels, which is contrary to the intent of Congress for the RFS program,” the coalition’s brief states.

In 2018, the EPA exempted an estimated 1.43 billion gallons of renewable fuel, second only to the 1.8 billion gallons exempted in 2017, according to EPA’s SRE dashboard.

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The biofuels group is using some of the same arguments made in a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals lawsuit, which remanded three small refinery exemptions, saying EPA lacked the authority to extend exemptions that had lapsed. Biofuel producers won that case, but refiners appealed to the Supreme Court, which is currently deciding whether to hear the case.

The brief further argued EPA failed to provide its own refinery-by-refinery analysis to support a finding of a disproportionate economic hardship. Before 2018, the agency typically responded to each SRE petition separately with several pages of analysis. But that year, EPA officials released a two-page memorandum for more than three dozen petitions.

“If these exemptions were meant to be a ‘bridge to compliance,’ as concluded by the courts, it should be obvious that we all crossed that bridge many years ago,” coalition representatives said in a news release.

The coalition further referenced roughly 20 instances where the agency decided to grant a full exemption despite Department of Energy recommendations saying only a partial exemption should be granted.

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