A federal court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to hold off on granting three biofuel mandate waivers issued in the waning hours of the Trump administration.

The order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit says the granting of three small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard must be “administratively stayed pending further order of the court.”

The move comes after the Renewable Fuels Association filed an emergency motion over the granting of three SREs Tuesday evening as one of the final acts of the EPA under the Trump administration. Biofuel groups were furious and said they hoped to see the Biden administration reverse course on the waivers.

“We took this action immediately to prevent the agency from doing further economic damage to an industry already reeling from the impacts of COVID-19,” RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said when the motion was filed. “To avert additional harm to the ethanol industry, EPA must be prevented from returning any compliance credits (RINs) to the unidentified refiners who were given these last-minute exemption handouts.”

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A spokesperson for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers said SREs "do not impact demand for ethanol or cause any harm to ethanol producers."

"There simply isn’t enough infrastructure or demand out there to absorb every drop of ethanol the biofuel industry would like. That’s why refiners have looked to other fuels and imports to meet their RFS obligations in recent years. In the past two years seven refineries have shuttered and if RFS regulatory costs (RINs) continue to rise in the absence of relief lifelines, there could be more facilities that meet the same fate—an outcome we should all be working to avoid.”

According to RFA, the stay “prevents EPA from further processing the small refinery exemptions, at least until the court has had ‘sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay.’” EPA has until Feb. 3 to respond to the stay.

Story updated at 1:00 p.m. ET to include additional comment. 

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