EPA Agrees To Follow Court Ruling — Victory For Ethanol Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 22, 2021) – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its support of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit’s ruling in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA.

“The Biden administration’s EPA listened to our warnings and reversed course in their interpretation of the Small Refinery Exemption process. This is a critical win for Nebraska’s economy. I will continue to push the EPA to ensure it is upholding the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Background:  Throughout recent years, the EPA has been under an order to keep a minimum level of ethanol-enhanced fuel in the American gasoline market.  Recently, the agency has been in the practice of granting “waivers”, allowing refineries to bypass the responsibility.  A Court has ruled in favor of the minimum standards, in effect ordering the Court to comply with the minimum blending requirements.

More information:

Senator Fischer has long advocated for bringing more transparency to the exemption process. Below is a timeline of events regarding the SRE process and actions Senator Fischer has taken:

–        Today: EPA announced its support for the for the Tenth Circuit’s opinion in Renewable Fuels Association et al. v. EPA.

–        February 2021: Senator Fischer and her colleagues wrote to EPA Acting Administrator Jane Nishida requesting that she review the three small refinery exemption waivers announced by Wheeler and consider reversing them.

–        January 2021: Senator Fischer and her colleagues wrote to the EPA’s then-administrator Andrew Wheeler warning that the issuance of additional exemptions would represent a “devastating blow” to biofuel producers and urged the agency to adhere to the 10th circuit ruling.

–        January 2021: Supreme Court agreed to review the case. Oral arguments before the court are expected to take place sometime this spring.

–        March 2020: Following the 10th circuit announcement, Senator Fischer led her colleagues in sending a letter to Wheeler urging adoption of court’s opinion.

–        January 2020: The Tenth Circuit vacated and remanded three EPA decisions granting SRE petitions for the 2016 and 2017 RFS compliance years which were issued in 2017 and 2018, holding that a small refinery’s petition can be granted only to refineries with existing exemptions. The EPA declined to take formal action on the matter and a petition for review of the circuit court’s order was filed in September.

–        June 2019: Senator Fischer introduced the bipartisan RFS Integrity Act with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The legislation would ensure the EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons and ensures that key information surrounding small refinery exemptions is made publicly available.