Supreme Court consider E15 case during Jan. 7 conference

By Erin Voegele | December 28, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider whether it will review a July 2, 2021, decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that vacated a U.S. EPA rule allowing year-round E15 sales during its Jan. 7 conference.

The EPA issued a rule in June 2019 extended the 1-pound-per-square-inch (psi) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15. The rule found that E15 is substantially similar to E10 certification fuel and allowed for year-round sales of the fuel blend. Prior to the rule, E15 could not be used to fuel non-flex fuel vehicles in summer months.

Days after the EPA finalized the rulemaking, the American Fuel and Petroleum Manufacturers filed a petition for review with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments pertaining to the challenge were held in April 2021 before a panel of three judges.

The court on July 2 issued it opinion, holding that Section II of EPA’s rule exceeds the agency’s authority under Section 7545 of the U.S code, which addresses the regulation of fuels. As a result, the court vacated that portion of the rule. Section II addresses the application of the 1-psi waiver to E15.

Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and National Corn Growers Association filed petition on Aug. 16 asking the full court to rehear the case, arguing that the decision handed down by the three-judge panel conflicts with precedent set by both the Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. That petition for rehearing was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Sept. 9. 

Growth Energy escalated its challenge to the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling on Oct. 4 by filing a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision.

In that petition, Growth Energy argues that the decision did not give proper deference to EPA, contradicted Congressional intent in promoting renewable fuels, and would suppress the expansion of higher-blend renewable fuels in the future. 

The Department of Justice filed its response on Dec. 8, calling on the court to deny the writ of certiorari. The government argued that overturning the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling would have limited legal and practical consequences and pointed to alternative avenues that can be pursued in order to increased the use of E15, including a the ability of states to petition the EPA through a separate provision of the Clean Air Act to allow year-round sales of E15 in affected areas and the potential for a congressional fix to the issue.