Court upholds EPA’s 2013 renewable fuel mandate

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused Tuesday to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2013 Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) level, saying the agency has “wide latitude” in deciding how it sets the mandate.

The court rejected arguments from Monroe Energy, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that operates a fuel refinery in Pennsylvania, that EPA should have taken into account the costs of credits refiners must buy if they do not reach the required RFS levels.

Refiners earn Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) by blending renewable fuels into their traditional ones. Companies that have to buy RINs must rely on an open and volatile market.

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Monroe said a spike in the price of RINs last year could cost it more than $100 million.

But the court said found “no ground to conclude the 2013 standards are unlawful simply because RINs are costlier than in prior years.”

PBF Energy also challenged the 2013 mandate, saying EPA should not have considered companies’ carryover credits from previous years when calculating the mandates.

“This contention is meritless,” the court ruled, say that "EPA was entitled to conclude, as it did, that it had wide latitude to consider a range of factors as appropriate.”

EPA had set the 2013 RFS level at 16.55 billion gallons.

RFS supporters celebrated the Tuesday decision, saying it add legitimacy to the mandate, which Congress started in 2005.

“Today’s decision is a victory for American consumers, renewable fuel advocates, and the RFS program,” the Renewable Fuels Association said in a statement. “Once again, the Court has rejected attempts of the anti-biofuel parties to undermine the RFS in court.”

“The court’s decision today is only the latest in a long series of cases in which the courts have found that the RFS is a fair and reasonable program for achieving our national energy objectives, including promoting more advanced biofuel such as biodiesel,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board.