Environmentalists challenge judge’s decision on low carbon fuel standard

Environmentalists have gone to federal court to support California’s program requiring the use of low-carbon fuels as a means of cutting climate-changing greenhouse gases.

On Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a motion to block the court’s ruling last month that halted the California Air Resources Board’s decision to move ahead with the  Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, or LCFS, which is intended to cut carbon emissions.

The environmental group hopes to get a response within three weeks, said NRDC spokeswoman Serena Ingre.

David Pettit, the NRDC’s lead attorney in the case, noted on his blog Switchboard that California’s LCFS “would help reduce harmful air pollution from the fuels used by our cars and trucks, reduce our dependence in petroleum, and drive innovation of advanced fuels.”

Under the ARB’s rules, applying the LCFS will provide an estimated 15 percent of the reductions in carbon emissions required by California’s landmark law, AB 32, which orders carbon emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. A number of California environmental laws contribute to the reductions, but the LCFS is one of the key components.

The trucking and fuels industries have opposed California’s LCFS, contending the ARB’s regulations violate interstate commerce laws and are pre-empted by federal law. 

CARB’s decision isn’t surprising to us,”  said Michael Whatley, executive vice president of the Consumer Energy Alliance. “No matter whether the stay is lifted or not we will continue to fight this blatant attack on the commerce clause and the ripple effects that CARB’s misguided Low Carbon Fuel Standard will have on farmers, families, truckers and energy consumers around the U.S.”

U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neil in Fresno’s Dec. 29 decision partially favored the industries: He ordered the ARB to halt the LCFS requirement as a violation of federal commerce clauses but he rejected the industries’ argument that the LCFS was pre-empted by federal law.

 “We applaud the court’s decision to allow this legal challenge to California’s LCFS to move forward,” Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, said at the time.  “We look forward to asking the court to address the underlying constitutional issues raised in the lawsuit.”

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