HOLLYFRONTIER CHEYENNE REFINING, LLC, et al. v. RENEWABLE FUELS ASSOCIATION et al.
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit
No. 20–472. Argued April 27, 2021—Decided June 25, 2021
When Congress created the renewable fuel program (RFP) requiring most domestic refineries to blend renewable fuels into the transportation fuels they produce, see 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(1)(J), (o)(1)(L), (o)(2)(A)(i), it added features designed to lessen the impact of the program’s mandates on small refineries. At the outset, Congress created a blanket exemption from RFP obligations for all small refineries until 2011. §7545(o)(9)(A)(i). Congress also directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “extend the exemption under clause (i)” for at least two years if the RFP obligations would impose “a disproportionate economic hardship” on a given small refinery. §7545(o)(9)(A)(ii). Finally, Congress offered the possibility of further relief in future years by providing that “[a] small refinery may at any time petition . . . for an extension of the exemption under subparagraph (A) for the reason of disproportionate economic hardship.” §7545(o)(9)(B)(i).
Here, three small refineries initially received an exemption, saw it lapse for a period, and then again petitioned for an exemption under subparagraph (B)(i). EPA granted the exemptions, and a group of renewable fuel producers objected. The Tenth Circuit vacated EPA’s decisions, concluding that the small refineries were ineligible for an “extension” under subparagraph (B)(i) because they had allowed previous exemptions to lapse.
Held: A small refinery that previously received a hardship exemption may obtain an “extension” under §7545(o)(9)(B)(i) even if it saw a lapse in exemption coverage in a previous year. Pp. 4–16.
(a) The key term here—“extension”—is not defined in the statute. Sometimes it can refer to an increase in time. 5 Oxford English Dictionary 597. Other times it can refer to the act of offering or making something available, such as the granting of a benefit. Id., at 595. Here, three textual clues show subparagraph (B)(i) uses “extension” in its temporal sense. First, subparagraph (A)(i)’s initial exemption is described temporally (as lasting “until calendar year 2011”). Second, subparagraph (A)(ii)’s exemption is also described temporally—authorizing EPA to “extend the exemption under clause (i) . . . for a period of not less than 2 years.” Finally, subparagraphs (A)(ii) and (B)(i) share an identical title—“Extension of exemption”—underscoring the likelihood that the two neighboring provisions use the term “extension” in one consistent sense. Pp. 4–5.
(b) Subparagraph (B)(i)’s temporal use of “extension,” however, does not require unbroken continuity. The Tenth Circuit erred by imposing such a requirement here and concluding that a small refinery is permanently ineligible for an extension once an exemption lapses. Pp. 6–12.
(1) The plain meaning of “extension” does not require unbroken continuity. Dictionary definitions contemplate the possibility of resumption after an interruption. Federal rules permit litigants to seek (and courts to grant) an “extension” of time even after a lapse. See 28 U. S. C. §2107(c); Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 6(b)(1). And recent federal statutes provide an “extension” of benefits that previously expired months or even years earlier. See Pub. L. 116–260, §203, 134 Stat. 1182; Pub. L. 116–136, §2114, 134 Stat. 281. Pp. 6–8.
(2) A different statutory context might make for a different outcome, for example, where Congress uses modifying language requiring an extension to be “consecutive” or “successive.” See, e.g., 8 U. S. C. §1184(g)(8)(D). But the statutory context here confirms the best reading of subparagraph (B)(i) does not require unbroken continuity. The absence of any “consecutive” or “successive” language suggests exemptions need not follow one another without interruption. By authorizing small refineries to seek a hardship exemption “at any time,” subparagraph (B)(i) points to an expansive meaning that invites small refineries to seek hardship exemptions in different years as market conditions change. And subparagraph (A), the immediately preceding paragraph, contemplates extension of exemption coverage even after interruption. See 42 U. S. C. §7545(o)(1)(K), (o)(9)(A)(i), (o)(9)(A)(ii). Before the Tenth Circuit, EPA pressed a similar argument by pointing to a 2014 regulation, 40 CFR §80.1441(e)(2)(iii), and asking for deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837. Because “the government is not invoking Chevron” now, the Court declines to consider whether any deference is due. Pp. 8–11.
(3) Respondents contend the statute establishes a general sunset scheme and that any exemptions were meant to end rapidly. They note that subparagraph (A) is titled “temporary exemption,” that it was permitted to expire in 2013, and that subparagraph (B)(i) speaks of extending “the exemption under subparagraph (A).” Context, however, suggests subparagraph (B) is not part of some sunset scheme. Subparagraph (A)(ii)’s exemptions did not have to expire in 2013; they could have lasted indefinitely. Subparagraph (B)(i)’s “at any time” language expressly contemplates exemptions beyond 2013. That looks nothing like readymade examples of sunset schemes, which Congress eschewed here. E.g., §247d–7f(b). Finally, even on respondents’ reading, a small refinery with an unbroken record of failing to comply with the RFP may continue to seek and obtain extensions forever. Pp. 11–12.
(c) In an appeal to public policy, respondents argue that subparagraph (B) was adopted to “funnel small refineries toward compliance over time” and that enforcing a continuity requirement helps advance that goal. Consistent with that view, the Tenth Circuit concluded the number of small refinery exemptions “should have tapered down” over time. Petitioners counter that the statute seeks to increase production of renewable fuel while offering an annual “safety valve” for small refineries. Neither the statute’s text, structure, nor history affords sufficient guidance to choose between these competing narratives and metaphors. Instead, the analysis can be guided only by the statute’s text—and that nowhere commands a continuity requirement. Pp. 12–16.
948 F. 3d 1206, reversed.
Gorsuch, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Barrett, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Sotomayor and Kagan, JJ., joined.
TRANSUNION LLC v. RAMIREZ
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
No. 20–297. Argued March 30, 2021—Decided June 25, 2021
The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the consumer reporting agencies that compile and disseminate personal information about consumers. 15 U. S. C. §1681 et seq. The Act also creates a cause of action for consumers to sue and recover damages for certain violations. §1681n(a). TransUnion is a credit reporting agency that compiles personal and financial information about individual consumers to create consumer reports and then sells those reports for use by entities that request information about the creditworthiness of individual consumers. Beginning in 2002, TransUnion introduced an add-on product called OFAC Name Screen Alert. When a business opted into the Name Screen service, TransUnion would conduct its ordinary credit check of the consumer, and it would also use third-party software to compare the consumer’s name against a list maintained by the U. S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of terrorists, drug traffickers, and other serious criminals. If the consumer’s first and last name matched the first and last name of an individual on OFAC’s list, then TransUnion would place an alert on the credit report indicating that the consumer’s name was a “potential match” to a name on the OFAC list. At that time, TransUnion did not compare any data other than first and last names.
A class of 8,185 individuals with OFAC alerts in their credit files sued TransUnion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for failing to use reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of their credit files. The plaintiffs also complained about formatting defects in certain mailings sent to them by TransUnion. The parties stipulated prior to trial that only 1,853 class members (including the named plaintiff Sergio Ramirez) had their misleading credit reports containing OFAC alerts provided to third parties during the 7-month period specified in the class definition. The internal credit files of the other 6,332 class members were not provided to third parties during the relevant time period. The District Court ruled that all class members had Article III standing on each of the three statutory claims. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs and awarded each class member statutory damages and punitive damages. A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed in relevant part.
Held: Only plaintiffs concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation have Article III standing to seek damages against that private defendant in federal court. Pp. 6–27.
(a) Article III confines the federal judicial power to the resolution of “Cases” and “Controversies” in which a plaintiff has a “personal stake.” Raines v. Byrd, 521 U. S. 811, 819–820. To have Article III standing to sue in federal court, a plaintiff must show, among other things, that the plaintiff suffered concrete injury in fact. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555, 560–561. Central to assessing concreteness is whether the asserted harm has a “close relationship” to a harm “traditionally” recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U. S. 330, 340. That inquiry asks whether plaintiffs have identified a close historical or common-law analogue for their asserted injury. Physical or monetary harms readily qualify as concrete injuries under Article III, and various intangible harms—like reputational harms—can also be concrete. Ibid.
“Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation.” Ibid. The Court has rejected the proposition that “a plaintiff automatically satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement whenever a statute grants a person a statutory right and purports to authorize that person to sue to vindicate that right.” Id., at 341. An injury in law is not an injury in fact. Pp. 6–14.
(b) The Court applies the fundamental standing requirement of concrete harm to this case. Pp. 15–27.
(1) In their reasonable-procedures claim, all 8,185 class members maintain that TransUnion did not do enough to ensure that misleading OFAC alerts labeling them as potential terrorists were not included in their credit files. See §1681e(b). TransUnion provided third parties with credit reports containing OFAC alerts for 1,853 class members (including the named plaintiff Ramirez). Those 1,853 class members therefore suffered a harm with a “close relationship” to the harm associated with the tort of defamation. Spokeo, 578 U. S., at 341. Under longstanding American law, a person is injured when a defamatory statement “that would subject him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule” is published to a third party. Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U. S. 1, 13. The Court has no trouble concluding that the 1,853 class members suffered a concrete harm that qualifies as an injury in fact.
The credit files of the remaining 6,332 class members also contained misleading OFAC alerts, but the parties stipulated that TransUnion did not provide those plaintiffs’ credit information to any potential creditors during the designated class period. The mere existence of inaccurate information, absent dissemination, traditionally has not provided the basis for a lawsuit in American courts. The plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the misleading information in the internal credit files itself constitutes a concrete harm.
The plaintiffs advance a separate argument based on their exposure to the risk that the misleading information would be disseminated in the future to third parties. The Court has recognized that material risk of future harm can satisfy the concrete-harm requirement in the context of a claim for injunctive relief to prevent the harm from occurring, at least so long as the risk of harm is sufficiently imminent and substantial. See Spokeo, 578 U. S., at 341–342 (citing Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l USA, 568 U. S. 398). But TransUnion advances a persuasive argument that the mere risk of future harm, without more, cannot qualify as a concrete harm in a suit for damages. The 6,332 plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the risk of future harm materialized. Nor did those plaintiffs present evidence that the class members were independently harmed by their exposure to the risk itself. The risk of future harm cannot supply the basis for their standing. Pp. 16–24.
(2) In two other claims, all 8,185 class members complained about formatting defects in certain mailings sent to them by TransUnion. But the plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the format of TransUnion’s mailings caused them a harm with a close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts. See Spokeo, 578 U. S., at 341.
The plaintiffs argue that TransUnion’s formatting violations created a risk of future harm, because consumers who received the information in the dual-mailing format were at risk of not learning about the OFAC alert in their credit files and thus not asking for corrections. The risk of future harm on its own is not enough to support Article III standing for their damages claim. In any event, the plaintiffs here made no effort to explain how the formatting error prevented them asking for corrections to prevent future harm.
The United States as amicus curiae asserts that the plaintiffs suffered a concrete “informational injury” from TransUnion’s formatting violations. See Federal Election Comm’n v. Akins, 524 U. S. 11; Public Citizen v. Department of Justice, 491 U. S. 440. But the plaintiffs here did not allege that they failed to receive any required information. They argued only that they received the information in the wrong for mat. Moreover, an asserted informational injury that causes no adverse effects does not satisfy Article III. Pp. 24–27.
951 F. 3d 1008, reversed and remanded.
Kavanaugh, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.
YELLEN, SECRETARY OF TREASURY v. CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF THE CHEHALIS RESERVATION et al.
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Circuit
No. 20–543. Argued April 19, 2021—Decided June 25, 2021 1
Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $8 billion to “Tribal governments” to compensate for unbudgeted expenditures made in response to COVID–19. 42 U. S. C. §801(a)(2)(B). The question in these cases is whether Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) are eligible to receive any of that $8 billion. Under the CARES Act, a “Tribal government” is the “recognized governing body of an Indian tribe” as defined in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA). §§801(g)(5), (1). ISDA, in turn, defines an “Indian tribe” as “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [(ANCSA),] which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” 25 U. S. C. §5304(e).
Consistent with the Department of the Interior’s longstanding view that ANCs are Indian tribes under ISDA, the Department of the Treasury determined that ANCs are eligible for relief under Title V of the CARES Act, even though ANCs are not “federally recognized tribes” (i.e., tribes with which the United States has entered into a government-to-government relationship). A number of federally recognized tribes sued. The District Court entered summary judgment for the Treasury Department and the ANCs, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed.
Held: ANCs are “Indian tribe[s]” under ISDA and thus eligible for funding under Title V of the CARES Act. Pp. 7–28.
(a) The ANCs argue that they fall under the plain meaning of ISDA’s definition of “Indian tribe.” Respondents ask the Court to adopt a term-of-art construction that equates being “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians” with being a “federally recognized tribe.” Pp. 7–25.
(1) Under the plain meaning of ISDA, ANCs are Indian tribes. ANCs are “established pursuant to” ANCSA and thereby “recognized as eligible” for that Act’s benefits. ANCSA, which made ANCs eligible to select tens of millions of acres of land and receive hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars, 43 U. S. C. §§1605, 1610, 1611, is a special program provided by the United States to “Indians,” i.e., Alaska Natives. Given that ANCSA is the only statute ISDA’s “Indian tribe” definition mentions by name, eligibility for ANCSA’s benefits satisfies the definition’s final “recognized-as-eligible” clause. Pp. 7–11.
(2) Respondents ask the Court to read ISDA’s “Indian tribe” definition as a term of art. But respondents fail to establish that the language of ISDA’s recognized-as-eligible clause was an accepted way of saying “a federally recognized tribe” in 1975, when ISDA was passed. Nor is the mere inclusion of the word “recognized” enough to import a term-of-art meaning. Respondents also fail to show that the language of the recognized-as-eligible clause later became a term of art that should be backdated to ISDA’s passage in 1975. Pp. 11–18.
(3) Even if ANCs did not satisfy the recognized-as-eligible clause, they would still satisfy ISDA’s definition of an “Indian tribe.” If respondents were correct that only a federally recognized tribe can satisfy that clause, then the best way to read the “Indian tribe” definition would be for the recognized-as-eligible clause not to apply to ANCs at all. Otherwise, despite being prominently “includ[ed]” in the “Indian tribe” definition, 25 U. S. C. §5304(e), all ANCs would be excluded by a federal-recognition requirement there is no reasonable prospect they could ever satisfy. Pp. 18–23.
(4) Respondents’ remaining arguments that ANCs are not Indian tribes under ISDA are unpersuasive. They first argue that the ANCs misrepresent how meaningful a role they play under ISDA because the actual number of ISDA contracts held by ANCs is negligible. This point is largely irrelevant. No one would argue that a federally recognized tribe was not an Indian tribe under ISDA just because it had never entered into an ISDA contract. Respondents further argue that treating ANCs as Indian tribes would complicate the administration of ISDA. But respondents point to no evidence of such administrative burdens in the 45 years the Executive Branch has treated ANCs as Indian tribes. Respondents also warn that blessing ANCs’ status under ISDA will give ANCs ammunition to press for participation in other statutes that incorporate ISDA’s “Indian tribe” definition. This concern cuts both ways, as adopting respondents’ position would presumably exclude ANCs from the many other statutes incorporating ISDA’s definition, even those under which ANCs have long benefited. Pp. 23–25.
(b) One respondent tribe further argues that the CARES Act excludes ANCs regardless of whether they are Indian tribes under ISDA, because ANCs do not have a “recognized governing body.” In the ISDA context, the term “recognized governing body” has long been understood to apply to an ANC’s board of directors, and nothing in either the CARES Act or ISDA suggests that the term places additional limits on the kinds of Indian tribes eligible to benefit under the statutes. Pp. 26–27.
976 F. 3d 15, reversed and remanded.
Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Breyer, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, JJ., joined, and in which Alito, J., joined as to Parts I, II–C, II–D, III, and IV. Gorsuch, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas and Kagan, JJ., joined.
1 Together with No. 20–544, Alaska Native Village Corp. Association et al. v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation et al., also on certiorari to the same court.