The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of small refineries seeking relief from the Renewable Fuel Standard, delivering a major blow to biofuel groups in a long-running legal battle over the governance of the nation’s ethanol and biodiesel policy.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court ruled Small Refinery Exemptions from the nation’s biofuel blending requirements need not be extended in an uninterrupted fashion.
The decision overturns a 10th Circuit decision issued in January 2020 that required the waivers be granted to a facility consecutively.
At issue was the interpretation of the word “extend” in the context of biofuel mandate relief.
In April, lawyers for small refineries and the Department of Justice – along with biofuel groups – offered competing definitions; one side argued extension meant continuing an existing waiver, the other suggested "extend" in the legislative text could be interpreted as the extension of a handshake or the extended deadline for a tardy school assignment that has already lapsed.
A spokesperson for HollyFrontier, the company that brought the appeal to the high court, said it was "pleased that our longstanding arguments were today validated by the Supreme Court”.
It added: "As refiners both large and small face all time high renewable identification number (RIN) costs and are recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19, we urge EPA to immediately take action to make the RFS a workable program for US refiners and consumers."
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