(Adds details throughout from lawsuit, background)
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. oil and gas industry has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over repeated delays in the release of 2014 and 2015 biofuel use targets, intensifying pressure on the agency to speed up its work on standards for renewable fuel.
A complaint filed on Wednesday by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute said the EPA has “ignored” its duty to issue requirements for blending ethanol and biodiesel into U.S. fuel supplies by the deadline set under federal law.
The groups said the delays have hurt their members financially because they have been unable to plan or adjust their output to comply with the annual targets.
The EPA is supposed to issue final targets by the end of November in the year before the targets become applicable. But after years of repeatedly missing this deadline, the agency failed to finalize 2014 blending requirements during the actual calendar year and has yet to propose draft 2015 targets.
The EPA said on Thursday it was reviewing the lawsuit.
“The Agency is committed to getting RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) back on track by finalizing volume standards for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by the end of this year, so we can provide for long-term growth of renewable fuels,” the EPA said in a statement.
API and AFPM, which represent top oil companies and refiners, have been unsuccessful getting courts to hold the EPA legally accountable for issuing late targets in the past.
This time around though, the agency is later than ever in releasing targets.
The trade groups asked the federal court in Washington D.C. to force EPA to promptly issue renewable fuel obligations for 2014 and 2015.
The case is American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers et al V. McCarthy et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 15-00394. (Additional reporting by Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Grant McCool)