U.S. EPA asks court to allow it to reconsider some biofuel blending waiv

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked a U.S. appeals court to allow the agency to reconsider some waivers it gave under the previous administration to oil refiners that exempted them from biofuel blending mandates.

The EPA asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a voluntary remand of a decision the agency made in 2019 that granted 31 small refinery exemptions, known as SREs, and denied five. The remand would allow the agency to reconsider the waivers in light of court decisions that have discussed the use of SREs, the filing said.

It would also allow the agency to provide a more robust explanation of its action after reconsideration, according to the filing, dated Aug. 25.

The EPA has reviewed arguments from some groups that claimed the agency under former President Donald Trump did not provide a reasoned explanation for granting the waivers.

"While EPA does not confess error, EPA acknowledges that a more robust analysis and explanation of its rationale for any action taken on remand would make any judicial review more efficient," the filing said.

The EPA's request would allow the agency to reconsider the decision, but the motion would not vacate the waivers.

Under U.S. law, refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation's fuel mix, or buy tradable credits from those that do. Refiners can apply for an exemption if they can prove the obligations would financially harm them.

Small refiners say the exemptions are necessary to keep them afloat, while the biofuels industry says the waivers hurt demand for their products. The oil industry refutes that claim.

"While RFA (the Renewable Fuels Association) supports EPA's reevaluation of these lawless exemptions, we object to EPA's remand request because it is unaccompanied by vacatur or some kind of limitations on its review," said RFA President Geoff Cooper. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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