Four agriculture and biofuel organizations argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should affirm a unanimous 2020 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that only small refineries that have remained continuously exempt from obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard are eligible for future extensions of the compliance exemption.

The four organizations comprising the Biofuels Coalition — the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and the American Coalition for Ethanol — shared time during the oral arguments with the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA announced in February that it supports the Tenth Circuit’s decision.

“EPA had exceeded its authority by creating new exemptions when the statute only authorizes the agency to extend the temporary, time-limited exemption that Congress provided to small refineries.  Because none of the three refineries involved in this case still had that exemption, there was nothing for EPA to extend,” the coalition noted. “The Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling is consistent with the Clean Air Act, congressional intent, and the purpose of the RFS. We will continue to stand up for the farmers and renewable fuel producers across the country whose livelihoods have been harmed by abuse of the refinery exemption program. We look forward to presenting our arguments before the Supreme Court, and we believe the Tenth Circuit decision should be affirmed.”

While the statute does allow EPA to grant exemption extensions to small refineries that can prove compliance with the RFS will cause “disproportionate economic harm,” the coalition underscored in its March 24 brief that the exemption was clearly meant to be a temporary allowance only. The statute only authorizes continuous extensions of the temporary exemption that Congress granted to all small refineries at the start of the RFS program; once a refiner comes into compliance with the RFS, they no longer are eligible to receive an exemption.