On June 25, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC, et al. v. Renewable Fuels Association et al.
, addressing the question of whether a small refinery (a refinery that produces fewer than 75,000 barrels per day on average) may receive a hardship exemption from the requirements of the Clean Air Act’s controversial Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) even if it saw a lapse in exemption coverage in a previous year. In doing so, the Court put a capstone on an issue of statutory interpretation central to determining the contours of the marketplace for renewable fuel credits, known as RINs. Reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit six to three, the Court held that the hardship exemption does not have a continuity requirement, meaning that a small refinery originally exempt from the RFS may obtain a hardship exemption even if its earlier exemption had lapsed in one or more previous years. The availability of hardship exemptions is vital for small refineries, which often provide critical service to underserved areas but which face substantial economic hardship in complying with the RFS.