Calif. gets court clearance for enforcing fuel standard

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

California can enforce its first-in-the-nation emissions standard for transportation fuels while it is on appeal, a federal court panel ruled yesterday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state could continue with its low-carbon fuel standard while it decides on the law’s constitutionality. In force since last year, the rule is aimed at reducing the carbon content of transportation fuels sold in the state by 10 percent by 2020.

The appeals court is weighing a December 2011 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill in Fresno that the program violates the Constitution’s commerce clause, which prohibits states from discriminating against interstate trade.

The regulation assigns carbon scores to each type of fuel, and most ethanol from the Midwest has a higher score than California-produced ethanol, in part because it is transported over greater distances and uses different electricity sources (ClimateWire, March 21).

The court also ordered an expedited schedule for arguments. The state’s opening brief is due May 25, with responses from the opponents — ethanol producers, petroleum refiners, truckers and farmers — due a month later.

State regulators vowed to move forward on enforcing the rule. “Today’s decision allows the Air Resources Board to continue implementation and resume enforcement of this important program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” ARB Executive Officer James Goldstene said. “The low-carbon fuel standard drives investment and innovation, creates new jobs and provides the next generation of clean fuels to all Californians.”

Two of the plaintiffs, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association, said they “look forward to fully briefing the issues before the Court of Appeals on the expedited schedule that the court has issued.”