EPA issues proposed consent decree related to SRE court challenge

By Erin Voegele | January 04, 2021

The U.S. EPA on Jan. 4 published a notice of a proposed consent decree that would require the agency to issue a decision regarding a 2019 small refinery exemption (SRE) petition filed by United Refining Co. by Feb. 19. A public comment period is open through Feb. 3.

United Refining in July 2020 filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that the EPA has failed to perform a non-discretionary duty to grant or deny the plaintiffs SRE petitions within the timeframe mandated by statute.

According to documents filed with the court, United Refining submitted a compliance year 2019 SRE petition to the EPA on or around Dec. 18, 2019. Under statute, the EPA has 90 days to act on such petitions. United Refining sent a notice to the EPA in May 2020 announcing its intent to sue.

A joint motion filed with the court in September indicates United Refining and the EPA were engaged in settlement actions, with the parties requesting a stay pending settlement negotiations. A joint status report filed with the court in mid-December describing plans to move forward with a proposed consent decree.

That proposed consent decree has now been released for public comment. Under the proposed action, the EPA is to issue a decision granting or denying United Refining’s 2019 SRE petition by no later than Feb. 19. With President-elect Joe Biden set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, his administration will be tasked with taking action on United Refining’s SRE petition.

Growth Energy is calling on the Biden administration to deny the petition. “Even with the promise of a new year, there are continued challenges with EPA’s SRE program given the secrecy and lack of transparency into the entire process,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “With the 2020 blending compliance deadline at the end of March looming, EPA’s swift action on all 66 outstanding SRE petitions remains critical to providing stability for biofuel producers and farmers. President-elect Biden’s administration has an opportunity to uphold a key campaign promise to rural America, and deny any and all SRE petitions that are not in accordance with the Renewable Fuel Standard or the 10th Circuit’s ruling on SREs, which was almost a year ago.”

Growth Energy noted that on the campaign trail, Biden often condemned the Trump Administration’s handling and abuse of the SRE program, and repeatedly affirmed that “A Biden-Harris Administration will fight for family farmers and revitalize rural economies — [keeping] our promises to farmers by ushering in a new era of biofuels.”

Comments on the proposed consent decree can be filed online at www.regulations.gov under Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OGC-2020-0652.



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