US refiners, energy officials to carry biofuels issue to Congress

08 November 2011 20:55  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US refining and energy industry officials said on Tuesday that they will take their case against “retroactive” renewable fuels standards to the public and Congress after the US high court declined to consider their complaint.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said his trade group was “disappointed that the Supreme Court did not agree to hear our lawsuit”.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeal filed by NPRA and the American Petroleum Institute (API), asking the high court to reverse a December 2010 decision by a lower court.

In that December 2010 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied an NPRA/API petition challenging biofuel consumption mandates set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The NPRA and API had argued that while the EPA was required by December 2008 to set subsequent years’ volume targets for US biofuels consumption - known as the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) - the agency did not finalise the 2009 and 2010 volume requirements until March 2010.

NPRA president Charlie Drevna said that at issue in the trade group's lawsuit was not the volume levels themselves but rather how the EPA did business.

“We did not seek to challenge or call into question the important role biofuels play in our nation’s transportation fuels supply,” Drevna said, but “the issue is one of fundamental fairness in EPA’s rulemaking process.”

“This retroactive regulation by a federal agency establishes a deeply troubling and potentially far-reaching precedent,” Drevna said.

Patrick Kelly, API senior policy advisor for downstream fuels issues, said his group also was discouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case.

“We remain concerned that the lower court’s decision could set a precedent that allows federal agencies to issue retroactive rules impacting all industries,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the appeals court ruling and the high court’s refusal to even review that holding “may set a dangerous precedent in allowing administrative agencies to issue retroactive rules without express congressional authorisation”.

Drevna said that the NPRA would “continue to highlight the nebulous and burdensome manner in which the EPA is carrying out implementation of the RFS”.  Those further appeals would be made in communications with the US public and in policy discussions with members of Congress.

There are multiple pieces of legislation pending in Congress to roll back various EPA regulatory initiatives, although a bill to force reconsideration of the agency’s RFS standards or practices has not been put forward.

While lamented by refiners and the energy sector, the Supreme Court decision to ignore the NPRA/API appeal was welcomed by the US National Biodiesel Board (NBB), which said it was pleased that the high court had put an end to the case and would allow the biodiesel industry to continue to grow.

Growth Energy, a coalition of US bio-ethanol producers also hailed the Supreme Court’s denial of a hearing as “the right decision”.

By: Joe Kamalick
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