Growth Energy Challenges EPA Over Small Refinery Exemptions

Growth Energy & EPA logos

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Growth Energy is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over small refinery exemptions.

The association filed a petition in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the EPA's failure to address small refinery exemptions in its 2019 renewable volume obligation (RVO) rulemaking, which was issued late last year, reported KTIC Radio.

"EPA's inaction on addressing lost gallons due to small refinery exemptions in this rulemaking is a clear violation of law," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. "In doing nothing to remedy these and other deficiencies, EPA has again failed to meet its statutory obligation to ensure that annual RVOs are met each year. Today's filing calls for greater accountability from EPA to ensure that every renewable fuel obligation is fulfilled as the law intended."

By Nov. 30 of each year, the EPA is obligated to issue RVOs, which establish the total volume of renewable fuel that must be blended with transportation fuel for the upcoming calendar year. Last year it was revealed that in previous years, the EPA had been granting an unprecedented amount of small refinery exemptions to numerous refiners.

Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), refineries producing transportation fuel must demonstrate each year that they have blended certain volumes of renewable fuel into gasoline or diesel fuel or acquired credits from others called renewable identification numbers (RINs), representing all of part of those volume obligations.

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," the outlet reported.

In 2018, Growth Energy became aware of an increase in the number of small refinery exemptions being granted in recent years, with no apparent effort by the EPA to publicly identify those who received the exemptions, explain the increase, or account for renewable fuel obligations lost to the exemptions, according to the organization.

The exemptions added up to close to 2.25 billion gallons of lost renewable fuel demand. 

Many of the exemptions had also been granted after the EPA established the RVOs for a given year, but the agency made no effort to reallocate billions of biofuel gallons that had been lost as a result, it added.

Based in Washington, D.C., Growth Energy represents producers and supporters of ethanol.