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In King Corn vs. Big Oil, biofuel producers win latest round

Trump team not challenging court ruling against its EPA

A plant manager walks inside the wet distillers bunker at the Siouxland Energy Cooperative in Sioux Center, Iowa. (Kathr
A plant manager walks inside the wet distillers bunker at the Siouxland Energy Cooperative in Sioux Center, Iowa. (Kathryn Gamble/Washington Post)

The Trump administration will leave unchallenged a federal court ruling that restricts its ability to exempt oil refiners from blending corn-based ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply.

The administration did not meet a Monday night deadline for filing an appeal, according to reports by Reuters and Politico. Letting the deadline pass was a win for farm states and biofuel producers, but a blow to the oil industry that has argued the requirement threatens to put some refiners out of business.

The Trump administration’s use of waivers to exempt small refiners from the Renewable Fuel Standard has quadrupled from previous administrations, according to reporting by Reuters.

Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Trump has granted waivers to refineries that — while small — are part of the hugely profitable Chevron and Exxon Mobil corporations.

In January, a three-judge panel of 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the administration had been too generous in issuing the waivers, instead clarifying stricter standards to be used in granting the hardships.

Three oil refiners did meet the deadline for making an appeal to have the full court reconsider, Politico reported, but they now do not have the backing of the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration’s decision today not to join the refiner appeals is good news in the midst of dark times for American biofuels producers, who are still hurting from three years of refinery exemption abuse, trades wars, and the demand-destruction caused by the spread of and global response to the coronavirus,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said in a statement. ”But the future is still in limbo. We hope the Trump administration will quickly make clear to the market that they intend to do the right thing and apply the 10th Circuit Court decision nationwide. The Court’s decision is in line with Congressional intent of the RFS law. Applying this decision nationwide would be a key step to returning integrity to the RFS and ensuring 15 billion gallons will really mean 15 billion gallons.”

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