U.S. EPA rejects one small refinery exemption for 2019 compliance year so far

NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected so far one petition from an oil refiner to be exempted from the nation's biofuel blending laws for the 2019 compliance year, EPA's website showed on Friday.

The move comes at a time when the oil and biofuel industries await an indication from the Biden administration on how it will approach blending requirements under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Though the EPA, which administers the RFS, rejected the one petition from 2019, it still has to decide on 32 pending petitions for that year.

Under the RFS, oil refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation's fuel mix, or buy tradable credits from those that do. Refiners can request a waiver from the EPA that would exempt them from those requirements if they can prove the obligations would do them financial harm.

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During the coronavirus pandemic, the EPA delayed a decision on blending requirements for 2021, and a finalized rule has been late by nearly a year. The deadline for 2022 requirements is the end of this month.

The oil industry and the biofuels industry have been at odds over the regulations for years. The biofuels industry says the exemptions hurt demand for their products, while independent refiners reject that claim and say that exemptions are needed for smaller refineries to stay afloat.

Aside from the 2019 compliance year, EPA's website shows that there are 28 pending petitions for 2020 and three pending petitions for 2021.

The EPA was to decide on a petition from United Refining Co (RAPPLU.UL) by Friday, after the company filed a lawsuit against EPA administration for the delay in deciding on the company's 2019 exemption petition.

United Refining did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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