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Iowa submits brief supporting biofuels
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Iowa submits brief supporting biofuels

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The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case April 27.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller submitted an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the biofuels industry’s challenge of three federal small-refinery exemptions that could set a precedent for future exemption requests.

The court case, HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining v. Renewable Fuels Association, will determine whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to enact small-refinery waivers, which allow oil companies to avoid blending ethanol into its fuel.

Monte Shaw, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director, at a March 31 news conference described the waivers as a “get out of jail free card” for refineries.

The 10th Circuit Court ruled the EPA waivers were illegal.

Led by Miller and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, attorneys general from Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia joined the “friend of the court” brief.

The brief calls the biofuel and agricultural industries a “cornerstone” of the economies of the involved states.

These industries — and the rural economies that they anchor — have grown over the past 16 years in reliance on the promise of the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, the brief said.

“And all states have an interest in the environmental benefits and energy independence that the RFS promises to achieve,” the brief continued.

The brief said the small-refinery waivers have cost the renewable fuel industry more than $2 billion per year in lost demand.

“The expansive interpretation of the small-refinery exemption advanced by petitioners has the practical effect of cutting the renewable fuel mandates significantly below the levels required by statute,” the brief said.

“This guts the RFS, rendering it ineffective in creating demand for renewable fuel. And without the demand created by the RFS, the renewable fuel industry will continue to suffer substantial economic harm.”

Iowa Renewable Fuels’ Shaw called the action “another step in getting the RFS back on track.”

“This amicus brief sends a message loud and clear from eight state attorneys general that the 10th Circuit Court got it right,” Shaw said.

Biofuels accounted for about 2% of Iowa’s gross domestic product in 2020, according to a study commissioned by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case April 27.

Miller said that while he was surprised the court took the case, he remains “very hopeful” for the outcome.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will “continue to watch this case closely.” The governor also has been pushing a bill that would require gas stations to sell fuel with at least 10% ethanol. It also would give the governor the option to raise the minimum to 15% in four years.

“We need to take hold of our future,” Reynolds said. “We can’t just rely on Washington, D.C., and where they are going to go.”

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