The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on July 16 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must reconsider its 2019 targets under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) related to its potential effects on endangered species. In Growth Energy v. EPA, No. 19-01023 (D.C. Cir.), three groups of petitioners had challenged the rule: renewable energy producers, parties regulated by the RFS requirements, and a group of environmental organizations. The first two groups contended, respectively, that the 2019 RFS targets were either too low or too onerous, but the court rejected both of these claims. In particular, the court found that EPA’s decision not to reconsider its policy on small-refinery exemptions was reasonable.

In contrast, the environmental groups had challenged the targets under the Endangered Species Act, claiming that EPA’s conclusion that the 2019 targets would pose no danger to endangered species was arbitrary and capricious. The court agreed, mainly on the basis that increased demand for corn and soy, which are primary biofuel feedstocks, would increase crop production and the conversion of habitat into cropland. The court remanded without vacating the rule for EPA to reconsider the 2019 RFS rule’s effects on endangered species.