Trump EPA decides not to appeal court ruling limiting biofuel waivers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not appeal a court ruling that would sharply reduce its use of waivers exempting refineries from the nation’s biofuels regulation, a big win for the Corn Lobby, according to a Reuters case docket review.

The EPA had until the end of March 24 to file a challenge, but by early March 25, no such filing had been entered in a case docket on the U.S. government’s electronic public access service for court records.

A decision by the administration of President Donald Trump not to appeal the ruling marks a big win for the U.S. corn lobby and a blow to the oil industry.

Oil refiners say the waivers have been crucial to keeping small refineries afloat, but the agriculture industry counters that they have been overused and have cut into demand for corn-based ethanol.

Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, refiners are required to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into their gasoline every year, a boon for corn farmers. But the EPA can give out waivers to small facilities that prove that compliance would put them in financial straits.

The waiver program was cast into question in January after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration had been too free with the waivers and set a standard for the exemptions that would greatly reduce the numbers of waivers the EPA can grant.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a group that represents merchant refiners, said the administration’s decision to not file an appeal by the deadline effectively ends the small-refinery exemption program.

“It is astonishing that President Trump has abandoned our country’s small-refinery workers and the communities that rely on these critical facilities in this time of national crisis and economic uncertainty,” AFPM President Chet Thompson said.

The biofuels industry cheered the decision and called for the administration to apply the ruling broadly.

“Requesting a re-hearing would have only prolonged uncertainty in the marketplace and exacerbated the pain and frustration already being experienced in the Heartland,” said groups including the Renewable Fuels Association in a statement.

White House officials did not comment on the issue on Wednesday.

The EPA did not immediately provide comment.

Sources told Reuters earlier this month that the Trump administration was likely to adhere to the ruling and apply it nationally.

The agency, meanwhile, was discussing the possibility of other measures to ease the financial burden on refiners, the sources said. (Reporting by Richard Valdmanis and Stephanie Kelly; editing by Barbara Lewis and Steve Orlofsky)

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