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May 03, 2012

Clean Fuel Standards - Progress in California and the Northeast

Traffic2We've seen some good news for clean fuel standards lately – rules that require industry to reduce carbon pollution by limiting reliance on high-carbon fuels, such as tar sands, oil shale, corn ethanol and other high-carbon biofuels.

First, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that had put a halt on California’s implementation of its Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The California Air Resources Board can now move forward with implementing this important standard, beginning the trend of reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Also this week, a coalition of environmental groups delivered a letter to 11 Northeastern Attorneys General demonstrating that a Northeast Clean Fuels Standard is legal and should move forward.

This news isn’t just important because of its impact on reducing carbon pollution. This legal certainty will send a positive signal to investors – and that will stimulate economic activity and innovation, not only reducing pollution but creating desperately-needed jobs.

California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): California’s LCFS will allow us to transition to cleaner, alternative fuels that lower our dependence on oil and reduce our carbon pollution. The LCFS is the nation’s only standard that requires the oil and corn ethanol industries to innovate to produce much cleaner transportation fuels and improve their production practices.

The standard aims to reduce climate disrupting-pollution by reducing the fuel-cycle, carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in California. The LCFS reduces pollution not only by encouraging the use of alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels, but also by estimating - and reducing - all climate disrupting-pollution caused by the use of ethanol, including from the extraction, refining, and transportation of the fuel.

On Monday, 4/23, the 9th Circuit Court of appeals stayed a lower court decision and allowed California to proceed with implementation and enforcement of the state’s new fuel standard. That decision allows companies that have already entered into contracts to buy and sell carbon credits under the new rules to proceed with the program, resulting in an immediate and meaningful cut in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Northeast Clean Fuels Standard Program: Also last week, legal experts from a coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club delivered a letter to the 11 NE Attorneys General involved in the NE Clean Fuel Standard. The letter comes in response to a push from an oil industry front group, the Consumer Energy Alliance, claiming that the standard wouldn't pass legal muster.

According to legal experts, the standard is legally defensible and should move forward—despite Big Oil’s efforts to derail the standards and bring tar sands to the Northeast. 

Once again, big polluting industries flexing their muscles to keep us addicted to their product and stall our transition to sustainable, clean transportation fuels. These cases show that for every two steps forward, polluting industries will stop at nothing to take us one step back.

-- Lena Moffit, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club


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