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Federal judges say no take backs on Wynnewood Refinery's exemption from renewable fuel requirements

The CVR Wynnewood Refinery in April 2022
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The CVR Wynnewood Refinery in April 2022

A federal court has sided with a refinery in Southern Oklahoma over the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the EPA couldn’t go back on an exemption it had issued for renewable fuel requirements.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires refineries to blend a certain amount of biofuels (like ethanol from corn) into their products.

If a refinery isn’t equipped to blend fuels, it can purchase offset credits from other facilities that blend in more than they’re required to. Small refineries that can’t afford to purchase those offsets can ask the EPA for an exemption.

During the Trump administration, the number of exempt refineries more than quadrupled. Among them was the CVR Wynnewood Refinery, which applied for and received a waiver extension in 2019.

But in 2022 the EPA retroactively revoked that exemption, saying the Wynnewood Refinery didn’t have a waiver to extend. Its previous exemption had lapsed in 2012. That would have put it on the hook for past offsets it didn’t believe it needed.

Last week, a panel of federal judges sided 2 to 1 with the Wynnewood Refinery and five other facilities whose 2019 waivers were voided by the EPA. The majority say the exemption can’t be revoked retroactively.

The dissenting judge says this case undercuts congressional mandates and should have been heard in the D.C. circuit court instead of a regional one. Similar cases in other districts were bumped up to the D.C. circuit.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU.