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Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Friday wrote her first dissent in a case involving exemptions given to smaller oil refineries from a federal law that requires increased amounts of ethanol and renewable fuels to be blended into their gas.
The court's majority, led by Justice Neil Gorsuch, found that a lower court had erred in ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency. The case arose after the EPA gave two smaller gas companies, HollyFrontier and CVR Energy, an extended exemption from the renewable fuel standard requirements of the Clean Air Act, even after their original exemptions had expired. The decision is a major setback for biofuel companies.
Gorsuch in his opinion wrote the court ruled for the gas companies in the same way a teacher might give a student more time for an assignment, even though a deadline has already passed.
"It is entirely natural — and consistent with ordinary usage — to seek an 'extension' of time even after some time lapse," Gorsuch wrote.
Barrett disagreed, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, writing that it is impossible to give an extension when a deadline has already passed.
The "EPA cannot 'extend' an exemption that a refinery no longer has," she wrote, referring back to the Clean Air Act.
Updates to the Clean Air Act late in President George W. Bush's administration required oil companies to blend ethanol and other biofuels into their products. That update started a war between companies that rely more heavily on gas production and ones that rely more on corn production.
The battle has also played out at the state level. In the case decided Friday, Wyoming threw its support before the two gas companies. Iowa, a more agricultural state, opposed their arguments.
Small refineries were exempted from the updates until 2011 to offset any "disproportionate economic hardship" they might endure by immediately incorporating biofuels into their products. The EPA during former President Donald Trump's administration gave another extension to HollyFrontier and CVR Energy.
At the time, an appeals court ruled against that extension roughly along the same lines as Barrett, writing that "there was nothing for the agency to 'extend.'"
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Original Author: Nicholas Rowan
Original Location: Amy Coney Barrett issues first dissent in biofuel exemption case