The Environmental Protection Agency has turned down the 26 requests for relief from the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard for small refineries.

EPA updated its online portal tracking Small Refinery Exemptions on Friday and issued a document stating the denials were issued after a review — held in concert with the Department of Energy — determined “the individual small refineries have failed to demonstrate that compliance with their RFS obligations would cause disproportionate economic hardship.”

“In general, the small refineries provided little new information and instead repeated the information included in the prior petitions that EPA denied with the 2022 SRE Denial Actions,” the agency noted. 

The denials stretch across the 2016-2023 compliance years, with 2019 the only year not included in the announcement. All told, 15 facilities were denied relief.

In a new development, the agency also listed 23 specific facilities it said had submitted petitions following July 1, 2022; all are listed as being denied.

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings said the organization was “grateful the Biden EPA is fulfilling its commitment to apply the law with respect to Small Refinery Exemptions, consistent with the agency’s previous actions in April and June of 2022 and the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling that small refinery exemptions may only be granted when a small refinery’s hardship is caused by the RFS program itself.

“Upholding the RFS in this way helps the program serve as an effective tool to maximize the use of cleaner biofuels available here and now,” he added.

Renewable Fuels Association leader Geoff Cooper also hailed the decision, saying it “honors the administration’s long-standing commitment to implementing the RFS in a way that is fair, transparent, and focused on growth.”

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The use of SREs exploded during the Trump administration under former EPA  Administrator Scott Pruitt. Biofuel groups launched a flurry of lawsuits against the approvals, eventually finding success in a 10th Circuit case that struck down three waivers and offered a new rationale for future approvals. That new rationale — which required uninterrupted use of the waivers each year — was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, but other aspects of the lower court’s decision remained in force.

“Nearly two decades of data prove that the supposed ‘cost’ to refiners is an accounting fiction, and EPA’s decision reflects those facts,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement. “We look forward to working with EPA to ensure the RFS continues to promote lower-cost, lower-carbon fuel options at the pump.”

Two petitions remain pending, both for the 2018 compliance year.

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