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Supreme Court of the United States
April 27, 2021, Argued; June 25, 2021, Decided
[*2175] [**551] Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court.
Congress requires most domestic [***6] refineries to blend a certain amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels into the transportation fuels they produce. But when it first adopted these mandates, Congress temporarily exempted small refineries across the board. Looking beyond that initial period, Congress authorized individual small refineries to apply for additional hardship “extensions” from the federal government “at any time.” The question before us is whether a small refinery that manages to comply with renewable fuel mandates in one year is forever forbidden from applying for an “extension” in any future year.
In 2005 and 2007, Congress created the renewable fuel program (RFP). §§201, 202(a)(1), 121 Stat. 1519, 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(1)(J), (o)(1)(L), (o)(2)(A)(i). For 2006, Congress ordained the inclusion of 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in the Nation’s fuel supply. §7545(o)(2)(B)(i)(I). By 2022, the number will climb to 36 billion gallons. Ibid. For years after that, Congress has largely left it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set the applicable volumes. §7545(o)(2)(B)(ii).
From the start, EPA has apportioned the nationwide volume mandates into individualized ones for each refinery. §7545(o)(3)(B); 40 CFR §80.1407(a) (2020). The Agency polices these mandates with a system of credits. Each credit represents the blending of a certain [***7] quantity of renewable fuel. 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(5)(A)(i); 40 CFR §§80.1415, 80.1429. A refinery that blends renewables may either “retire” the credits it has earned (i.e., use them) to satisfy its own RFP volume obligation—or sell those credits to a different producer that needs them. 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(5)(B); 40 CFR §§80.1425-80.1427. Any given refinery may therefore comply with the law thanks to its own blending efforts, the purchase of credits from someone else, or a combination of both.
Congress tempered its mandates in other ways too. For example, if a refinery is unable to generate or purchase sufficient credits in a given year, it may “carry forward” any deficit to the following year. 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(5)(D). But this reprieve has a snowball effect. The next year, the refinery must offset the deficit it carried forward. §7545(o)(5)(D)(ii). Elsewhere, Congress authorized more sweeping relief: EPA may waive RFP obligations in a particular State or region if it determines they “would severely harm the economy or environment” or if “there is an inadequate domestic supply.” §7545(o)(7)(A). That waiver lasts for only one year, “but [it] may be renewed.” §7545(o)(7)(C).
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141 S. Ct. 2172 *; 210 L. Ed. 2d 547 **; 2021 U.S. LEXIS 3399 ***; 51 ELR 20122; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1017; 2021 WL 2599433
HOLLYFRONTIER CHEYENNE REFINING, LLC, et al., Petitioners v. RENEWABLE FUELS ASSOCIATION, et al.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
Renewable Fuels Ass'n v. United States EPA, 948 F.3d 1206, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 2286, 2020 WL 401800 (10th Cir., Jan. 24, 2020)
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Energy & Utilities Law, Oil & Petroleum Products, Processing & Refining, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Effect & Operation, Retrospective Operation