Judge rebuffs latest challenge to Calif. fuel standards

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A federal judge last week largely upheld one of California’s primary efforts to address climate change in a challenge from crude oil producers.

The judge largely granted the state’s motions to dismiss the litigation on California’s low-carbon fuel standard, holding that previous lawsuits had already resolved most of the issues in the case.

California’s fuel standards were developed under the state’s landmark 2006 global warming law, A.B. 32, which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The standards assign all fuels in the state for the transportation sector a “carbon intensity” rating or score. That is calculated by taking the life cycle of a fuel’s emissions into account, including where it is produced, where it is refined and how it is transported to the state. The regime went into effect in January 2011.

Fuel and ethanol producers launched an early legal assault on the regime, claiming that it discriminated against out-of-state refiners and, consequently, violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those arguments in September 2013, and the Supreme Court declined to review that ruling (Greenwire, June 30, 2014).

Crude oil producers continued their litigation, however, lodging new complaints about the amended version of the standards.

Last week, Judge Lawrence O’Neill for the Eastern District of California largely dismissed those claims, concluding that the 9th Circuit had already ruled on them.

The challengers, he wrote in a 57-page order, “have alleged no facts and have provided no argument to support a finding that the amended” fuel standards “operates differently” from the original.

While O’Neill sided with the state almost entirely, he did allow the case to move forward on the issue of whether the original fuel standards discriminate against ethanol producers.

Click here for the order.