Thursday, February 4, 2010

Truckers, Refiners Sue Over California Low-Carbon Fuel Regulation

The American Trucking Association, which represents more than 37,000 motor carriers nationwide, and a coalition of petroleum industry trade groups filed suit Tuesday in federal court to block California's recently enacted low-carbon fuel standard.

The regulation, implemented by the California Air Resource Board on Jan. 12, requires annual reductions over the next decade in the carbon intensity of gasoline and diesel produced for use in California. The goal of the regulation, according to CARB, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Large-scale use of lower-carbon transportation fuels, said CARB in drafting the LCFS, is necessary to meet a state requirement that greenhouse gases generated in the state be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020.

During his 2007 State of the State address, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for implementation of an LCFS. In April 2009, CARB formally adopted a regulation implementing such a standard, but the regulation did not become effective until it was approved in January of this year by the state’s administrative law office.

Supporters of the regulation have argued that in addition to reducing greenhouse gases by 16 million tons by 2020, the LCFS will diversify transportation fuels in the state and increase demand for alternative-fueled vehicles. 

“The drive to force the market toward greater use of alternative fuels will be a boon to the state’s economy and public health,” CARB Chairwoman Mary D. Nichols said early last year. “It reduces air pollution, creates new jobs, and continues California’s leadership against global warming.” 

The ATA suit alleges that the LCFS regulation will unduly burden fuel providers and add increased costs to fuel consumers without any net change in fuel's carbon-intensity on a global scale. The end result, claims the suit, is no reduction – and a likely increase – in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The LCFS would essentially ban imports to California of fuels derived from unconventional sources such as oil sands from Canada, oil shale from the Western US, or domestic coal supplies that can be converted into transportation fuels,” said ATA Vice President Rich Moskowitz. “Discouraging these fuels will simply increase costs while failing to prevent their export to and consumption by other nations.”

The suit relies in large part on the federal preemption argument used successfully in the past by the trucking industry when opposing local and state regulations– namely that federal law supersedes local or state regulations in dealing with interstate commerce.

“The California LCFS is unlawful for a number of reasons, including the fact that it violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution by imposing undue and unconstitutional mandates on interstate commerce,” explained NPRA Pres. Charles T. Drevna. 

The suit also asserts that the CARB regulations discriminate in favor of California-produced fuels by assigning them lower carbon-intensity ratings because of shorter transportation distances to users. 

Filed in United States District Court in California, the suit also includes the Center for North American Energy Security, Consumer Energy Alliance and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association as plaintiffs with the ATA.