US court decision on renewable fuel standard: Good day for biofuels

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was mistaken to use the methodology it did for lowering the 2016 renewable fuel standard. The decision is being hailed as a major victory for the biofuels industry.

The ruling was made on Friday (28th July, 2017). This decision was in response to a joint petition filed in January 2016 to hear a challenge to the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016. Growth Energy along with Americans for Clean Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association filed this petition.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal's decision is a major victory for the ethanol and alternative fuel industry, which argued that the EPA erred in its interpretation of its authority to waive biofuel requirements and that the EPA's misuse of the authority played into arguments touted by the oil industry and refiners.

Court decision

We reject all of those challenges, except for one: We agree with Americans for Clean Energy and its aligned petitioners ... that EPA erred in how it interpreted the 'inadequate domestic supply' waiver provision," the court decision read.

The court statement said: "We hold that the 'inadequate domestic supply' provision authorizes EPA to consider supply-side factors affecting the volume of renewable fuel that is available to refiners, blenders and importers to meet the statutory volume requirements. It does not allow EPA to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers," the decision read. That means that the EPA can't waive the renewable fuel requirements because there are not enough biofuel refueling stations or pumps at gasoline stations, for example. It can waive the annual blending requirements for ethanol and other biofuels only because of lack of supply.

"We therefore grant Americans for Clean Energy's petition for review of the 2015 Final Rule, vacate EPA's decision to reduce the total renewable fuel volume requirements for 2016 through use of its 'inadequate domestic supply' waiver authority, and remand the rule to EPA for further consideration in light of our decision.”


In a response to the ruling, Poet CEO Jeff Broin said: “Today’s decision is a victory for US drivers and everyone who supports clean, American-made fuel.

“Congress clearly laid out its vision for increasing our nation’s use of American-made biofuels, and the biofuels industry has worked tirelessly to make that vision a reality. We must use every available gallon of clean, domestic biofuels in lieu of importing more oil. It’s environmentally responsible; it’s economically responsible; it’s common sense; and it’s the law.”

“We hope this decision will help us move past the unjustified resistance to year-round use of E15 by those protecting oil markets and pave the way to the expansion of higher biofuel blends across the United States.

“Biofuels today replace toxic chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disorders and other health issues. Biofuels lower greenhouse gas emissions by at least 43%. Today’s decision will help to increase those benefits while lowering costs for consumers at the pump.”

‘Good day for biofuels’

DuPont’s global business director for Biofuels, Jan Koninckx, added: “Today is a good day for biofuels. We look forward to working with EPA as the agency re-examines the renewable volume obligation rules on biofuels and translates the Court’s decision into regulatory action. Consistent and long-term biofuels policy is critical to continued growth and investment in renewable fuels.”

‘America’s fuel mix’

“We’re very pleased with the court’s ruling, which restores Congressional intent and will ensure that renewable fuels continue to play a growing and important role in America’s fuel mix,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said.

“This is a major win for consumers, who save money when American biofuels can compete at the pump with foreign oil. Every year, American biofuels get more affordable and more sustainable. Ethanol slashes greenhouse gas emissions by 43%, and biofuel production supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the US We appreciate the court recognizing the value of the RFS, and we look forward to working with the EPA to make sure that America’s biofuel targets reflect the goals set down in law.”

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Biofuels International.

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