Coalition Files Legal Challenge Against EPA on 2018 Small Refinery Waivers

Legal challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of renewable fuel and agricultural trade organizations is challenging the process by which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted certain unknown small refineries from their respective Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations for 2018.

The coalition — which includes Growth Energy, the American Coalition for Ethanol, National Biodiesel Board, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union and Renewable Fuels Association — filed a petition with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Oct. 22.

The RFS allows certain "small" refineries — those with a throughput of less than 75,000 barrels per day — to petition the EPA for a temporary extension of an earlier exemption from the renewable fuel volume requirements. The exemption is supposed to exempt only those refiners who can show that compliance with the RFS would cause "disproportionate economic hardship."

In its petition, the coalition noted that the EPA's full decision document was just two pages long, unlike previous years. In the two pages, the EPA reportedly resolved 36 pending petitions for disproportionate economic hardship exemptions, exempting small refineries from having to blend almost one and a half billion gallons of renewable fuel.

The coalition also pointed to the lack of details and sufficient reasoning behind the decision. Additionally, it did not transparently address whether any of the small refineries were eligible for extensions of their exemptions and did not include an analysis of "‘disproportionate economic hardship," according to the petitioners.

"Even as the Trump Administration indicates it is taking steps to account for future small refinery exemptions, the coalition remains concerned that EPA's abuse of the small refinery exemption program diverges from the spirit and letter of the Clean Air Act," the coalition stated. "From a substantive and procedural perspective, this is not the way for a federal agency to make such a momentous decision."

The full petition is available here.