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Federal court denies injunction against EPA biofuel blending waivers

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Federal court denies injunction against EPA biofuel blending waivers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the Advanced Biofuels Association's motion for a temporary injunction to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from granting certain U.S. oil refiners exemptions from complying with the biofuel blending mandates of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

"Petitioner has not satisfied the stringent requirements for an injunction pending court review," the court wrote in a May 17 brief.

The EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard requires U.S. refiners to blend an increasing volume of biofuels, such as ethanol, into the transportation fuels they produce each year, escalating to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Under the standard, companies that cannot meet the blending requirements must purchase credits known as renewable identification numbers to meet their blending obligations.

Federal law allows the EPA to grant hardship waivers to U.S. refiners with a capacity of less than 75,000 barrels per day.

The Advanced Biofuels Association, an industry advocacy group, filed suit in May 2018 challenging the EPA's process for granting the waivers. The association said in a news release that the number of exemptions granted for compliance years 2016 and 2017 had doubled from previous years and accused the agency of "granting these exemptions in an arbitrary and capricious manner to undisclosed parties behind closed doors with no accountability for its decision-making process."

The increased exemptions caused the price of renewable identification numbers to fall, it said, which disincentivized blending.

A coalition of U.S. ethanol industry groups said in a 2018 lawsuit that the EPA overstepped its authority by granting relief to profitable companies.