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Oil refineries win battle over renewable-fuel exemptions

The Supreme Court ruled Friday in favor of oil refineries seeking exemptions from a federal program that requires renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion in Hollyfrontier Cheyenne Refining v. Renewable Fuels Association.

The case involved the Renewable Fuel Program, which Congress created in 2005 and expanded to its current form in 2007. Congress gave small refineries a temporary exemption from the program’s requirement to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels. In addition, it gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to grant “extensions” of that exemption in certain circumstances. The question in Hollyfrontier was whether a refinery can obtain an “extension” of an exemption if that exemption lapsed in a previous year.

The refineries argued that the text of the relevant statute – 42 U.S.C. § 7545(o)(9) – allowed them to extend prior exemptions even if those exemptions were no longer in effect. Renewable-fuel producers disagreed, arguing that refineries must have a continuous, unbroken exemption in order to be eligible for an extension.

In a 6-3 decision, the court sided with the refineries.

“It is entirely natural — and consistent with ordinary usage — to seek an ‘extension’ of time even after some lapse,” Gorsuch wrote. “Think of the forgetful student who asks for an ‘extension’ for a term paper after the deadline has passed, the tenant who does the same after overstaying his lease, or parties who negotiate an ‘extension’ of a contract after its expiration.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh joined Gorsuch’s majority opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote a dissent that was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Check back soon for in-depth analysis of the opinion.

Recommended Citation: James Romoser, Oil refineries win battle over renewable-fuel exemptions, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 25, 2021, 12:58 PM),