(CN) - Oil refiners lost their challenge to backdated requirements for biomass-based fuels in the D.C. Circuit.
The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association had sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a rule implementing an expanded renewable fuel program under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.
The act, which significantly increased requirements for production of renewable fuels, was supposed to apply from 2008 to 2022. As delays piled up from greenhouse gas assessments, however, the EPA ended up passing regulations in summer 2010 for deferred compliance in February 2011.
The EPA regulations also rolled 2009 and 2010 requirements together, putting the compulsory total biomass-based diesel production at 1.15 billion gallons for the two years instead of 0.65 billion gallons for each separate year, as the act required.
The refiners had argued that biofuel requirements for 2009 should be skipped since the EPA missed the intended deadline of the act, but the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed.
Although the act did not state what to do if deadlines were missed, congressional silence does not mean the agency loses its authority to implement the law, Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the appellate court.
Congress probably did not intend for missed deadlines under the law, which was tied to national security and the public interest, to become a windfall for industry, the opinion stated. New evidence also points out that the original deadlines were not realistic, the D.C. Circuit found.
Deferring compliance to 2011 constitutes an advantage for refiners, the court continued, while existing case law also upholds EPA authority for retroactivity with missed deadlines.
The agency balanced the benefits and burdens of the option it chose, adequately considering alternatives, Rogers wrote. Therefore, no remand is necessary, the court concluded.
The D.C. Circuit denied the refiners' petition and ruled that the Feb. 28, 2011, deadline still applies for compliance with the 2010 standards.
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